Wirt County repeats as Class A volleyball state champs
Wyer, who had 30 kills in the Tigers’ 26-28, 25-23, 25-18 and 25-20 semifinal triumph versus Summers County, finished her final prep match with 18 downed spikes, four blocks and six digs.
The 15-4 Tigers of first-year head coach Katie Frazier also received match-highs of 21 assists from Sims, who added a trio of aces, and 18 digs from libero Jordan Hickman. Freshman Izzy Rios played big at the net with a match-high 14 blocks.
“I felt like we were really nervous and we weren’t really on our feet,” Wyer admitted of the semifinal. “Passes weren’t coming up to target and then tonight we knew what we had to do and came out here and did it. Katie gave us a little pep talk before. We all kind of came together and played.”
East Hardy’s lone advantage in the opening set was at 6-5, but the Tigers took the lead for good when Sam Burns blocked Sierra Miller, who had a team-high 10 kills. That play ignited a 10-0 spurt which featured a quartet of aces from Emily Young.
Richards opened set two with a kill, but the Cougars used aces by Erin Riggle and Gabby Miller to forge ahead 8-4. Still trailing 13-8, the Tigers rallied behind the blocking of Rios and never looked back after the ninth-grader executed a double block with Wyer to thwart a Riggle attack.
“It’s definitely a new experience,” Rios admitted of competing at state. “Playing with an amazing group of girls that are all upperclassmen and being one of the only freshmen on the team, especially a starter, it’s a great feeling all around.”
After Sims set Wyer for a kill on the outside to get things going in set three, she then went to a quick set that produced a Rios kill from the middle. With Sims at the service line and Rios and Wyer controlling action at the net, the Tigers roared to an 11-0 cushion. That included a pair of aces from Sims.
“It’s definitely a lot different without all of our spectators and the net was on the left side of the court instead of in the middle so the atmosphere was definitely different,” added Sims, who joined fellow seniors Wyer, Richards and Burns with their third title in four seasons.
Tiger freshman Skylar Bunch later produced five straight service tallies, including a pair of aces, as the Tigers moved ahead 17-5 and forced Cougar head coach Marsha Hahn, whose program defeated WCHS for the 2016 crown, to call for a timeout.
“I’m definitely just really proud of these seniors,” coach Frazier said. “They knew from the beginning they wanted to repeat and get their third one.
“It’s a team effort. It’s not me. We have four coaches over here and it definitely takes a village for our whole team.”
Despite a kill from Riggle and then another by Emily Dyer with libero Perry Whetzel serving, the Cougars were still facing a 19-8 deficit and couldn’t rally.
“I mean it’s crazy,” Burns said of winning the Tigers’ Mountain State-best 13th championship. “Freshman year we were a little scared coming in here because, you know little freshmen and it’s kind of a big place and we’re just so excited we got to do this for our senior year.”
Wyer, Sims, Hickman, Riggle, Sierra Miller and Whetzel were joined on the all-tournament squad by Summers County teammates Taylor Isaac and Gavin Pivont.
“It was a little rough, but we came together,” added Richards, who contributed six kills as many digs and one ace. “We started to play together and we used teamwork and I just think we really pushed through it because we knew how much we wanted it. I’m definitely really lucky. I love playing with these girls. We have some big forces at the net. That’s for sure.
“It (the court setup) was definitely a different feeling and we were a lot more used to the court (in the finals) and I think we just after seeing how well we worked together as a team I think we knew we just had to do the same thing and we’d be fine.”
For the first time in history, the field didn’t have eight squads. In the lone quarterfinal match, Summers County ousted Greenbrier West 25-19, 23-25, 25-17 and 25-21.
Buffalo, Parkersburg Catholic and Williamstown qualified from their respective regionals, but were banned from playing due to continued COVID-19 mandates by the state.
“Shaky,” coach Frazier said of the semifinal. “These girls, they’ve been here three times and it’s a brand new year. Every time we’re down here that first game we see the lights, it’s deer in the headlights for a little bit of time until they settle in. They eventually did. They took care of themselves and did what they needed to do.”
That included some timely rest after dispatching Summers County, which trailed 22-14 in set four following freshman Ally Nicholais’ ace for the Tigers, who got match point in the semis via a Richards kill.
“This morning we were all really scared and jittery and then we all kind of got used to it and took a good three hour nap and I feel like we got all the jitters out,” Burns added. “It was a lot better.”
Frazier now only trails her mother Janet by 11 state championships. Miriam Beall led the orange and black to the 2019 state crown.
“I’m just thankful we were able to come back at sectionals,” Frazier said of having missed more than two weeks because of the state color map. “We were very close to not being able to play our sectional.
“I just wanted it for these seniors because they were kind of expected to after last year. We only lost two last year so returning four starters they knew from the beginning they wanted to come back out here and get a stab at it again and we were able to.”
Contact Jay Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org