PHS wins sectional
South moves on to regional
Despite having lost starters Grace West and Maggie Sauers to season-ending injuries, the Big Reds of head coach Erin Thorpe eliminated third-seeded Ripley — 25-12, 25-15 and 25-11 — before besting top-seeded and host Parkersburg South by scores of 25-12, 25-22 and 25-22.
“Having people injured like that and obviously they are great players, but we can’t let that affect us,” said PHS senior Shay-Lee Kirby, who had match-highs of 13 kills versus Ripley and then 19 against the Patriots.
“We have to go into practice every day working harder to fight for what we did tonight. We have our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, we have to come together and know how we play and come out here and just keep pushing to 25 points.”
Parkersburg South head coach Becky Bennett’s squad will carry a 19-18-5 record into Saturday’s regional semifinal, which is slated to get underway at 2 p.m. at Cabell Midland High School. The Patriots will face Section 2 champ Spring Valley, which is unbeaten, while the red and white will take on the host Knights.
“Not disappointed in the loss itself. Disappointed in how the loss came about,” said Bennett, who got 11 kills and as many digs from McKayla Kemp. “Never a problem losing to a team when you play well. Playing the way we did. we’re not happy about that.
“It’s not (going to be easy). If we come in with our heads on like they can be, we can play with them. It’s going to be a tough route, but like I told them, everybody has a chance. There are still opportunities out there. Nothing is concrete until the game is over.”
PHS birthday girl and libero Hannah Adkins served for an ace to open set one of the finals and the Big Reds never trailed. Kirby put down four kills early on and when Shelby Roberts (13 assists) registered the first of her baker’s dozen downed spikes, coach Bennett called timeout down 6-1.
Jacqui Foggin’s kill from a Rylee Harris assist in set two gave the hosts their first lead in the championship match at 2-1. Despite six Big Red service errors, PSHS only managed a 14-11 lead and that was trimmed to one at 14-13 after Big Red Anna Umpleby served up an ace. South kept the lead at 16-14 and 17-16 thanks to kills by Kemp, but a Kirby and Kristen Lowers (match-high 22 assists) double block on Foggin gave PHS the lead for good at 18-17.
Patriot Sierra Hays had a kill and Foggin later followed with a pair of service tallies to close the deficit back to one again at 23-22, but Kirby got a block on Alana Brigner and then Umpleby got a kill on set point thanks to a bad Patriot serve-receive.
In the must-win third set, PSHS tallied the first two points on kills by Kemp and Cassie Fink, but Kirby went to work and put three to the floor. Hannah Hewitt followed with a kill from the back row, Umpleby registered two more downed spikes and then MaKinzie Hewitt also had a kill for an 8-4 PHS lead.
The Patriots eventually managed to take a 20-19 advantage after a pair of PHS attack errors, but a Lowers kill was followed by another smash from Kirby as the Big Reds never looked back with Umpley’s kill earning match point and the sectional crown.
“That’s big for us,” said Thorpe, whose 25-20-8 team defeated Cabell Midland for the first time all season the last time they met. “They played phenomenal and you know that’s what this team is all about.
“We are kind of peaking at the right time. Every big game I need them to step up and play well, they are stepping up and playing well. I’m really proud of them all around. I think our defense stepped up.”
Thorpe was worried about going up against Ripley, which was led by Katlyn Sarver’s four aces and four kills as well as Haylee Casto’s three kills, but the Vikings (17-27-2) couldn’t get anything going.
“I’m excited,” Thorpe continued. “Coming in, we had a couple rough days of practice. I didn’t even know if we were going to beat Ripley because we were playing so bad.
“That was a big win for us and a big confidence booster because I think these girls have it in their head that they can do it. Now they believe they can do it and I believe they can do it. I know these girls are capable of absolutely anything.”