Having an All-Hardy County Region II Section 2 Volleyball Championship has been a familiar sight and the Yellow Jackets were the defending champion coming in as the top seed, but East Hardy was hungry to take a bite out of the Hive to claim the title crown this past Thursday clawing for a straight set victory: 25-21, 27-25 and 25-23.
The Cougars have won the section title 13 times out of the past 15 seasons with the exception being the previous two years being taken by Moorefield.
Both teams split the regular season matches and the road to the Charleston went through the heart of Hardy County.
“I thought our girls came out incredibly focused trying to get that top seed, so we’re playing the loser of the region over there. We wanted to show everybody that we can play some volleyball over there,” East Hardy assistant coach Chris Hahn stated.
“The last couple of weeks we have turned it up a notch. We played Washington and beat them in five sets and that was kind of our turning point. It was against good, high competition and beat them in five. I feel like we have rolled since that time. We have been sharpening the knife all season long and we feel like we are better now and we are healthy. Early when we came in here and lost, we were done a couple of players. The girls were a little nervous, but we read the floor well tonight and didn’t try to force the ball into places. SierraMarie played out of her mind tonight. She had a tremendous game at the net. Moorefield is a good team and we might see them two more times this season. We’re not taking anything for granted. We appreciate the win and we will take it on any floor at any place we can.”
Moorefield had a bye in the first round, then defeated Pendleton County in the semifinals in four sets: 19-25, 25-11, 25-15, 25-21.[private]
The path to the championship for the Cougars began in the section quarterfinals beating Tucker County in straight sets 25-5, 25-11, 25-4 before ousting Petersburg in three games of the semifinal.
Being on the prowl gaining early momentum is what East Hardy needed to dethrone the Yellow Jackets and starting out with a 3-1 lead in the opening set was a step in the right direction.
Moorefield never let the Cougars get too far ahead and it came down to a matter of some tough earned points in each set for East Hardy to claim the section title.
Being in the section championship meant an automatic berth in the Region II Tournament at Doddridge County, but seeding was a factor in the motivation.
“When you drop three fast like that, it says a lot that emotions weren’t here, transitions weren’t here, communication wasn’t here. We couldn’t seem to get anything to go on together. When it comes down to sectional play, you’ve got mentally tough and everything has to jive. You can’t be off,” Moorefield coach Morgan See commented.
“We will come back tomorrow in practice and see where we are and go down Saturday and see what we can do. We are 75 points away from punching our ticket to Charleston. You have to do what you’ve got to do to get to where you want to go. Tonight you look at it as the intensity, lack of; movement, lack of; communication, lack of. Those three things will hurt you against a sound team like East Hardy.”
A spike by East Hardy senior Erin Riggle commenced the scoring, but the Yellow Jackets responded with a kill from sophomore Kaleigh Hunt which landed just in front of a dive attempt for a dig by senior Perry Whetzel.
After a hitting violation, Whetzel’s serve wasn’t returned despite touches from Hunt and senior Gracie O’Neill and the ensuing serve landed for an ace giving the Cougars the 3-1 edge.
After an error, Moorefield freshman Amber Williams was at the service line and senior teammate Alyson Simmons made a tap kill to equalize the set.
The Yellow Jackets corralled an attack by Riggle and Williams set for senior Remington Hinkle to slam the ball to the floor to take the lead with the players huddling together for a celebration.
An attack by East Hardy sophomore Emily Dyer went just beyond then back line, but the Cougars regrouped and Riggle’s volley was met with a dig by O’Neill which ricocheted below the net.
Dyer’s serve was greeted by a dig from Simmons and Hinkle’s attack was redirected into the net prior to Hinkle serving an ace for a 7-5 lead.
The Cougars regained the lead as an attack by Riggle ricocheted out off the Yellow Jackets, then senior SIerraMarie Miller slammed the ball and Riggle added an ace, 8-7.
Moorefield senior Lauren Arbaugh made a dig on the next serve and Hinkle’s attack was fielded by Whetzel with junior Victoria Ames setting for Miller to make another kill.
Kump returned the following serve from Riggle into the net as the Cougars extended the lead, 10-7.
An attack by Kump was blocked out of bounds by East Hardy sophomore Gabby Miller.
There was no return on the serve by Simmons, then the ensuing serve was sent back by SierraMarie Miller for a spike.
Gabby Miller delivered an ace as the Cougars maintained the edge, 12-9.
O’Neill blocked a shot by Miller, then Kump served up two aces to tie the set at 14-all.
A couple of Moorefield miscues put the Cougars back on top.
An attack by Simmons caromed off of Ames and Miller made a sideline save with Riggle getting the ball over the net and the return by the Yellow Jackets sailed out.
Whetzel served an ace and the next serve was met with a dig by Moorefield sophomore Marissa Ward before being deflected out, 20-15.
Hinkle blocked a volley by Dyer, then Riggle made two kills for a 22-16 advantage.
East Hardy committed several errors as the Yellow Jackets inched closer and Kump had an attack returned into the net for a 23-20 score.
Miller and O’Neill traded spikes, but the Cougars finished with a kill from Riggle for a 25-21 score in the first set of the section championship.
Moorefield started the second set with a 5-1 lead as Hunt and Hinkle (2) made kills, plus a service point by Kump and a block by Hinkle against Riggle.
East Hardy junior Courtney Shank recorded the lone point for the Cougars during that stretch coming on an attack returned awry.
Riggle sandwiched two kills around one by Hinkle for a 6-3 score.
The Cougars made a service error moments before O’Neill hammered the ball for the Yellow Jackets.
Miller’s attack was returned into the net and the serve by Riggle couldn’t be corralled, 8-5.
Ward made several digs, but Miller finally found a spot to land the ball.
East Hardy’s Gabby Miller added an ace, then digs were made by Ward and Hunt.
Shank notched a dig against Kump, who countered with another attack landing for a point.
A couple of attacks by Miller found its way into the net as the Cougars fathered an 11-10 edge.
Moorefield countered with a kill by Simmons and an ace delivered by O’Neill to regain the lead.
Shank created a spike, then Hinkle made a saving dig on a serve by Miller for a point and that was followed by Simmons’ block for a 14-12 edge.
There was a collision by the Cougars during Kump’s serve resulting in a point.
Riggle had two attacks sent up on digs into the net and Whetzel’s serve was returned awry to tie the set, 15-all.
The Yellow Jackets took the lead again on a service error, then Simmons and Miller swapped kills.
A series of digs by Arbaugh and Ward prevented initial scores, but East Hardy’s constant attacks couldn’t be completely covered as Miller found a couple spots to take the lead 19-18.
The second set would be tied six more times down the stretch with the help of errors.
Simmons blocked a shot for a 24-22 lead, then Riggle landed a spike.
During a serve by Whetzel, the Yellow Jacket carried the ball tying the set.
Riggle smashed the ball for the Cougars lead, but Moorefield answered with an attack by Simmons returned into the net to make it 25-all.
Riggle’s attack during the serve by Williams would deflect off Simmons for a point and the Cougars closed the set with an ace by Dyer, 27-25.
Moorefield went up 3-1 in the third set with kills by Hinkle and an error, but the Cougars answered with attacks by Riggle and SierraMarie Miller.
Gabby and SierraMarie Miller recorded spikes to put East Hardy ahead 6-4.
Williams created a tap kill for the Yellow Jackets, then SierraMarie Miller blocked Kump’s volley.
The back row was seeing quite a bit of action with tremendous scrappiness and hustle as Ward, Simmons, Hunt, Riggle, Ames and Whetzel were consistently making digs.
There were some errors in both directions as the Cougars kept a slight edge with attacks by Miller.
RIggle and the Millers garnered kills and Dyer served an ace to create a 15-11 lead.
Gabby Miller blocked a shot by Kump, then SierraMarie Miller hammered the ball for an 18-13 score.
A couple East Hardy miscues and a spike by O’Neill helped close the gap, 18-16.
The Yellow Jackets kept fighting even with some errors along the way as a kill by Williams cut the deficit to 21-20.
An attack by Riggle was returned out of bounds, then Hunt made a dig and Hinkle scored on a big swing.
An attack by Hinkle was met with a dig by Miller and saved by Riggle, but the Cougars got too close to the net, 22-all.
A volley by Riggle was redirected to the ceiling by Hinkle bouncing off the rafters going back over the net for an East Hardy point.
There were service errors in both directions to conclude the match with the Cougars taking the section championship with a final third set score of 25-23.[/private]
Moorefield and East Hardy traveled to Doddridge County to earn a state tournament berth in the Region II Tournament on Saturday.