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Wirt netters wrap up ‘20

Tiger seniors reflect on state repeat

CHARLESTON — Looking ahead to a hopeful 2021 full volleyball season, Class A coaches across the state will be glad Wirt County graduates four seniors.

The Tigers considered themselves more than fortunate to even have the opportunity to defend their 2019 state championship, which they did on Thursday by sweeping East Hardy in the title match.

Aside from an unprecedented year, the dynamics of the orange and black were interesting considering first-year head coach Katie Frazier once played alongside current 12th-graders Emma Wyer, Adeline Sims, Maddy Richards and Sam Burns.

“I mean I don’t look at her any different,” said Wyer, who had 30 kills in a four set semifinal win against Summers County and 18 more in the finals. “I mean, yeah, I played with her and she’ll always be one of my good friends, but I have to respect her as a coach, too.”

Good thing the Tigers listened to their leader. One of the key areas the squad worked on was defending the net.

“The last couple of weeks in practice we felt like our blocking was not good to where it should be,” Frazier said. “The last couple of weeks we worked really hard on doing different drills.

“We have these big outside girls that can jump clear out of the gym if we get their timing there and they do everything correctly so we really focused and honed in on that these last couple weeks and it was able to help us here in the end.”

It was far from smooth sailing throughout, but the senior class made memories to last a lifetime.

“Well, it was a little rough in the middle of our season,” said the setter Sims. “We got two weeks where we didn’t get to play. I was just really proud of the team because we even went to the park. Practiced on our own.

“We all just really wanted it and worked toward it so we showed up a little bit nervous, but we ended up finally getting it together and pulling through.”

Richards, who was a first team all-state utility selection in softball as a sophomore, was thankful to just be able to compete.

“I’m definitely really lucky,” she said.

“I love playing with these girls. We have some big forces at the net. That’s for sure.”

The good news is one of those forces returns in current freshman Izzy Rios, who put on a blocking party in the finals with 14 stuffs.

Burns knows things will be challenging next year for her now former teammates, but she has confidence in them.

“I think they are going to do really great,” she said. “They have a lot of potential and they’ve done so good so far. I think if they stick with it they will be fine.”

Staying the course is what got the Tigers to this point. It also didn’t hurt the senior group had been playing together since sixth grade.

“We always looked up to the high school players,” Wyer admitted of when they were younger. “We always knew we wanted to be like them and do as good as they did.

“I think we kind of worked toward that all four years. The four of us have always been like best friends. We’re really close so to come down here and get a win it’s going to be memorable.”

Needless to say, coach Frazier realizes getting back to Charleston and winning it all again would take a Herculean effort.

“Well, replacing our outsides is definitely going to be a problem,” said the coach.

“Sam is very dominate at the net with blocking and Adeline has worked her tail off to be able to be a good setter. We’ll definitely miss them.

“We’re looking forward to next year. It will definitely be a learning year and a growth year, but I think we have some eighth-graders coming up that should be able to help us out a little bit or at least contribute to the program even if it’s a growing year.”

Along with Rios, the Tigers will return several players with state tournament experience including libero Jordan Hickman.

“She’ll be a killer one day,” Wyer said of Rios. “She came in this year and she was a little nervous, you know, because we had never played with her before. She came in and worked hard like the rest of us and obviously she did good.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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