Ripley Viking netters advance to regional championship

Parkersburg High School’s Shay-Lee Kirby powers a spike past the double block of Ripley’s Kenzie Casto (14) and Anna Kurnot (9) during Wednesday’s Class AAA sectional tournament inside Memorial Fieldhouse. PHS claimed the sectional title, but both the Big Reds and Vikings will return for the regional on Saturday morning. Photo by Jay W. Bennett.

PARKERSBURG — Just when it looked like third-seeded Ripley was in position to force a decisive fifth set here Wednesday evening inside Memorial Fieldhouse in the Class AAA, Region IV, Section 1 championship match, Parkersburg’s Hannah Adkins served for 16 consecutive points in the fourth set as the Big Reds of head coach Erin Thorpe knocked off the Vikings 25-16, 25-13, 24-26 and 25-12.

The Vikings of head coach Dusti Fisher eliminated Parkersburg South from the postseason in the opening match by sweeping the Patriots 25-10, 25-22 and 25-20.

Now, PHS will take on Hurricane while the Vikings face Spring Valley at 10 a.m. Saturday back inside Memorial Fieldhouse for the Region IV title.

Both of Saturday’s winners on Saturday both will advance to next week’s state tournament in Charleston.

“Ripley is extremely scrappy and I knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Thorpe, whose club lost senior outside hitter Amayah Lauer for the season due to a knee injury last Friday in practice. “I knew coming in because we played them before and they played us 16 and 17 before when we played them.

“They just keep sending stuff over the net and just when you think you’ve won the point they keep sending it back over. With Amayah being out our offense has changed a lot and setters have changed a lot. We’ve just got a lot of practicing to do with our offense.”

Two kills by Katlyn Sarver, a McKayla Kemp ace and then an Ella Casto downed spike helped put PHS behind 9-3 in set four of the title match. However, the Big Reds trimmed the lead thanks to kills by Grace West and Hannah Hewitt, which came via a Shelby Roberts assist on a back row attack. Although Ripley went ahead 11-6 when Anna Kurnot earned a service point from a Lexi Prater kill assisted by Karlie Hesson, the momentum soon shifted.

Lindsey Kiger’s kill with Janna Yost serving closed the gap to three at 11-8 and the Big Reds got pumped up when Shay-Lee Kirby registered one of her match-high 15 kills that exploded into the chest of Viking libero Taylor Johnson. There was no turning back after that as Kirby followed up with another massive kill.

“Well, we’re playing Saturday and hopefully we’ll have a fresh start,” stated coach Fisher. “They played hard against Parkersburg High. I think we could’ve ended up coming out and beating them, but they were tired and it’s been a long night.

“This is the first time we’ve beat South in a long time. It’s been a really long time. Spring Valley did beat us in season, but hopefully it will come out different.”

Kiger and West finished with 10 kills apiece while Haddae Allen and Roberts picked up 18 digs each. Hewitt (11 points, four aces, 12 kills, match-high 23 digs) along with fellow Big Reds Maggie Sauers (11 digs) and Anna Umpleby (four kills, four assists, two blocks, three digs) also had solid efforts.

In its final match of the season for head coach Becky Bennett, Parkersburg South was led by Jacqui Foggin (13 kills), Cassie Fink (eight kills), Toria Moore (five kills), Alana Brigner (four kills) and Rylee Harris (23 assists).

Kenzie Casto had eight blocks for the Vikings in the play-in match. Ella Casto had five kills while Kemp and Prater had a trio of downed spikes apiece.