Cougars Eliminate Moorefield From Title Shot

East Hardy and Moorefield took its rivalry to the biggest stage competing for the first time against each other at the Class A State Volleyball Tournament, setting for a semifinal bout in Charleston and for the fifth time this season with the Cougars rotating to the victory in straight sets to earn a spot in the championship match having all of this passing on Thursday: 25-15, 25-23, 25-21.

Both teams had a bye in the first round due to three team being absent on account of COVID-19 and seedings placing the All-Hardy County match for the semifinals.

It has been a back-and-forth battle for the Hardy County squads with the Yellow Jackets winning the previous match which was the Region II Championship and the Cougars claimed the Region II Section 2 Championship and these two title matches had one thing in common with the semifinal game being the fact it took just three sets for the wins.

“We spent a lot of time this week talking about attitude and adversity and what we were going to do when we faced them. It really was a mental game. We told the girls no matter what happens out here to stay positive and that the first team to calm down is going to be the team to emerge victorious. We are down here in Charleston with the opportunity to go to the state championship, so there was a lot of emotion involved. I am just really proud of how our girls handled the big stage. We settled down and hit the ball hard and executed the game plan. Our girls really brought it,” East Hardy assistant coach Chris Hahn commented.

“Everybody talks about how Region I has really good volleyball. Single A volleyball in Region I is very tough from top to bottom, but we like to think we can play volleyball over here in the eastern panhandle too. Our schedule has no slackers, it includes Hedgesville who made it down here and Hampshire would have if they were given the chance. Just the fact our girls were able to come down here and execute in front of the people of Charleston means a lot. We can play volleyball in Region II.”[private]

There were two courts on the floor instead of three as there was just Class A competition for the entire day due to the pandemic instead of the normal three classes competing simultaneously.

Moorefield’s fans came ready with huge signs, while East Hardy fans had special shirts made showing support.

One of the biggest supporters prior to the state tournament was Hardy County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Alicia Sanders, who provided an escort for both teams leaving the schools.

Knowing there was an abundance of support from the Hardy County community brought a smile to the faces of these student-athletes competing at the state tournament.

The friendliness between these teams was immediately turned into intensity and focus for the match as the whistle blew.

Moorefield’s Gracie O’Neill made the first jump serve to commence the state semifinal match and it was returned into the net.

East Hardy notched a point off the next serve as SierraMarie Miller slammed the ball for a spike.

After a serve into the net by East Hardy’s Victoria Ames, Courtney Shank made a dig on a serve from Moorefield’s Remington Hinkle and Erin Riggle set for Miller’s kill.

Miller served into the net on the ensuing sequence, then touched the net during an attack coming off a dig from Perry Whetzel during a serve by Moorefield’s Amber Williams.

The Cougars gained some moment as Miller launched a spike and Riggle sent an attack over that was returned into the net to tie the set at 4-all.

Whetzel served an ace and the next serve was returned out as East Hardy took a 6-4 lead.

Moorefield equalized the set on two errors as Whetzel’s next serve landed out and a dig by Whetzel was nearly saved on a dive by Emily Dyer only to ricochet out.

Riggle’s volley was sent back out of play and the ensuing Cougars serve went awry.

The Yellow Jackets took an 8-7 lead as Alyson Simmons had a serve returned into the net.

An attack by East Hardy’s Gabby Miller was met on a dig by O’Neill, but caromed out of bounds.

Gabby Miller blocked a volley from Moorefield’s Sterling Kump to put the Cougars back in the lead.

SierraMarie Miller garnered a kill to create a 10-8 edge, then the Yellow Jackets responded with a push attack from Williams.

Moorefield’s Kaleigh Hunt and Simmons made digs on the next volleys coming from Miller, then Kump launched the ball out.

Shank made an attack and the dig by Williams deflected out of bounds.

A block by O’Neill on a shot from SierraMarie Miller went out of bounds as the Cougars took a 13-9 advantage.

O’Neill earned the point back with a push kill.

Hinkle’s attack was met on a dig by Dyer and saved by Whetzel with Shank volleying the ball over and it being returned into the net.

Ames delivered an ace for East Hardy, then Hinkle made another attack which was saved by Whetzel at the bench and Ames corralled it for a return.

Hinkle finally found an opening for a point to cut the deficit to 15-11.

There were service errors in both directions, then Simmons had an attack land in the net after a serve from SierraMarie Miller.

Miller’s ensuing serve was deflected out over the bench off a dig by Hinkle.

A spike by Riggle and a block by Shank put the Cougars ahead 20-12 in the first set of the semifinals.

Shank launched attacks, but Williams and O’Neill made digs, then an attack by Simmons was returned into the net.

Williams served and the ball was returned into the net.

A Moorefield error off an attack by Miller put Dyer at the service line with a serve that was carried by the Yellow Jackets as East Hardy went up 23-15.

Dyer served up an ace and Gabby Miller closed the first set with a spike giving the Cougars a 25-15 win.

“There was no communication and we clearly didn’t move well out there. When you get beat in three, that says a lot right there. They weren’t there today and clearly didn’t show up to play,” Moorefield coach Morgan Hill See remarked.

“During the warmups the lighting bothered us a little bit, but that is something you adapt to and adjust to and a lot of them have been here before. They know what the lighting is like here, so you can’t use that as an excuse. We simply didn’t play well, we didn’t communicate and we didn’t play as a team. We have played East Hardy five times and split for the section and regional titles and now they are playing for the state title, because our side didn’t show up to play. We knew everything they had and it was nice we got to the Civic Center. East Hardy showed up to play and you have to give them credit as they were ready to play. This was a crazy season and we were happy to be able to play. You have to take everything hour by hour and all good things must come to an end.”

SierraMarie Miller started the second set serving and the ball was returned into the net by Hinkle.

Hinkle shook that off on the next volley with enough spin making the ball ricochet off a dig by Shank out of bounds to tie the set.

Riggle sent the ball awry on an attack as Moorefield took the lead.

O’Neill was penalized for jumping over the line on her serve with the point going to the Cougars.

Whetzel serve out of play, then Williams had a serve returned into the net.

Simmons created two points off of push style attacks giving the Yellow Jackets a 6-2 advantage.

East Hardy began a rally as Riggle made a kill, then Ames saved a shot made by Simmons and Hinkle’s volley went out.

Whetzel made an initial saving dive on an attack by Simmons, but the ball was returned out.

After a service error but Hinkle, Riggle served an ace and SierraMarie Miller made a tap kill and a spike to put East Hardy up 8-7.

The Cougars touched the net trying to defend an attack by Hunt.

The Yellow Jackets buzzed back into the lead as Simmons served an ace and the next serve was returned into the net.

During an attack by Riggle, the Yellow Jackets committed a violation.

East Hardy’s Gabby Miller served into the net, then Kump blocked a volley and the Cougars saved the ball back into the net as Moorefield held a 12-9 edge.

Hunt served out of bounds for the Yellow Jackets, then East Hardy collected two more points to tie the set as Ames served an ace and SierraMarie Miller’s attack was deflected out.

Moorefield responded by scoring seven consecutive points for a 19-12 lead as O’Neill made a block, McKenna Crites served up a point, Hinkle made a couple of kills and there were several errors.

Miller and Hinkle traded tap style kills for their respective teams.

The Cougars recorded seven straight points of their own to equalize the set at 20-all.

Riggle spiked the ball, then a pair of aces were served by Whetzel and Miller added a kill prior to another slam by Riggle.

An attack by Riggle caromed into the net on a dig by Moorefield’s Marissa Ward.

Dyer’s volley tied the set as the ball ricocheted off the Yellow Jackets.

Moorefield’s Lauren Arbaugh made a crisp pass and an attack by Simmons resulted in a point.

A volley by Williams was blocked by Riggle to tie the set at 21-all.

A dig by Arbaugh went flying back over the net off a serve from Dyer and Riggle made a save with the ball finding a spot on the floor for a Cougars point.

Hinkle blocked a shot to tie the set again, then Miller’s attack was met with a carry by the Yellow Jackets.

Gabby Miller made a spike for East Hardy, but Moorefield answered with a push kill from Simmons with East Hardy holding a 24-23 edge.

Kump blocked an attack, but it was saved by SierraMarie Miller and returned for a kill to end the second set for the East Hardy win, 25-23.

Whetzel made a dig off the first serve by O’Neill to begin the third set of the semifinals and Riggle passed to Miller for an attack which was blocked by Kump for a point.

Hinkle’s attack was met on a dig by Ames, then an attack by Miller didn’t get to the floor due to a dig by O’Neill.

Miller countered with a spike as the Cougars tied the set at 1-all.

After an error during an attack from Hinkle, Kump served an ace to put Moorefield up 3-1.

Simmons pushed the ball over the net and it was carried by the Cougars.

Dyer’s two attacks were met with digs by Kump and Hunt.

A block by Simmons on Miller went right back into the net on the Yellow Jackets side.

Miller notched a point off an attack, then served into the net for a 5-3 score.

Hunt launched the ball out of bounds during the service play from Williams and Hinkle blocked the ball out on a volley from Riggle which tied the set.

Whetzel had three consecutive serves returned out of bounds by Simmons and Arbaugh as the Cougars took the lead, 8-5.

After a timeout, an attack by East Hardy’s Gabby Miller was returned into the net.

The Yellow Jackets scored the next three points as Hunt and O’Neill made push kills before Hinkle served up an ace.

East Hardy responded with a kill by Riggle, but the ensuing serve by Dyer went awry.

Simmons had a serve returned out of bounds to tie the set at 10-all, but the following serve sailed beyond the back line.

Riggle sandwiched two aces around a volleying error by Kump to put the Cougars ahead 14-10.

After a service error, Moorefield’s Hailey Biser delivered an ace and the next serve was met with a carrying violation, 14-13.

The Yellow Jackets kept the momentum going as Biser served up two more points including an ace for the lead, 15-14.

East Hardy regained the lead after a timeout as an attack by SierraMarie Miller was returned on a dig into the net by Simmons and Gabby Miller’s serve was also returned into the net.

The Yellow Jackets carried the ball off another Gabby Miller serve and SierraMarie Miller garnered a spike.

Kump’s attack was returned into the net by Miller, but the next shot by Miller found the floor for a 20-16 score.

The Cougars had three attacks go awry and Simmons made a kill to cut the deficit to 21-20.

After a Moorefield service error by Kump, SierraMarie Miller delivered an ace for East Hardy.

Simmons had an attack sail wide, but the Yellow Jackets regrouped as Williams garnered a point off the next volley, 24-21.

Williams served and the ball was returned for the match point kill by Riggle giving the Cougars the overall victory to advance to the state championship, 25-21.

“We talked before hand to calm each other down and came in taking it ball by ball. It was a little difficult to stay focused with a light on both sides which was blinding, but we just huddled after every ball and talked and we were good. It is really exciting to be in the championship match, because I have never been this far and I am pumped,” East Hardy senior SierraMarie Miller concluded.[/private]