East Hardy Volleyball showed heart and determination throughout this season finishing as the WVSSAC Class A State Volleyball Tournament runner-up displaying grace in the title match loss to defending champion Wirt County and earning the team sportsmanship award in the process playing in Charleston last Thursday: 25-14, 25, 25-15, 25-8.
The Cougars expressed sadness and compassion for the teams not being able to participate in the Class A Tournament due to COVID-19 and were just grateful for the chance to play this season ending in Charleston only days before Hardy County turned orange on the map.
East Hardy was one of five teams playing in the Class A Tournament due to the pandemic and the first match for the Cougars was against fellow Hardy County representative Moorefield in the semifinals.
Winning the sportsmanship award was an honor befitting for the Cougars who were friendly and respectful to their opponents and the officials.
East Hardy’s trio of seniors SierraMarie Miller, Erin Riggle and Perry Whetzel were selected to the Class A State Volleyball All-Tournament Team joining Wirt County’s Jordan Hickman, Adeline Sims and Emma Wyer plus Summers County’s Taylor Isaac and Gavin Pivont.
“We were excited to get this sportsmanship award. It shows the temperament of our girls and the quality of kids that we are bringing down here. They are good kids. For them to come down here and get the sportsmanship award was very nice,” East Hardy assistant coach Chris Hahn stated.
“We were really happy to be here. Tonight they were out of our weight class. They were hitting the ball really hard and several inches above the net. Wirt County is the best team we have seen and their outside hitters were better. Our girls didn’t lay down and didn’t give up. They just got beat and we can live with getting beat. Being runner-up is still impressive. You should have seen these girls as sophomores and the weight we put on them. We just weren’t a good team and for them to work so hard to get to the point where they are now the second best team in Class A is just all you can ask for. I am super proud with how far they have come. We are sad for the teams that couldn’t be here, but glad we had this opportunity.”
Wirt County became the winningest volleyball program in Mountain State history after claiming its 13th title and denied the Cougars their quest for a second championship with their first coming back in 2016 against the Tigers when current coach Katie Frazier was a player under her mother.
“I am really proud of my girls to work together and to put it together in the end. I am really proud of my seniors, They wanted to repeat as state champions. Those previous 12 titles belong to my mother, so I don’t consider them mine. I am happy we won this one today. This one is mine. Our back row was very beneficial and our serve receive got better. Year to year you say you have been down here, but it took the first set to shake some nerves out and put it together in the end. Each year is different in the first set. We were able to finish it out. We felt our blocking wasn’t up to where it should be in practice, so we worked on it and we have outside hitters who can jump out of the gym. It was a team effort and I have four coaches here. It takes a village to win,” Wirt County coach Katie Frazier commented.
East Hardy’s SierraMarie Miller started the state championship match serving, then the Tigers collected the ball and setup Emma Wyer for a spike.
An attack by East Hardy’s Erin Riggle was met on a dig by Wirt County’s Jordan Hickman and Madison Richards set for Wyer to slam the ball again.
Miller took a set from Victoria Ames and hammered the ball down, then Perry Whetzel served and the ball was returned just beyond the line by Adeline Sims as the Cougars tied the set, 2-all.
The Tigers regained the edge on two spikes by Wyer.
East Hardy’s Emily Dyer made a couple of digs and Riggle created a point off an attack.
Riggle notched a kill and Dyer delivered an ace to put the Cougars ahead 5-4, but the next tap attempt by Riggle landed in the net.
Wirt County served out of bounds, then Riggle served and a shot by Wyer was met with a dig by Ames before Miller’s attack was blocked by Samantha Burns knotting up the set again, 6-all.
Burns blocked another volley, then the Cougars committed two errors on serves by Wirt County’s Emily Young, who served up several aces and forced returns into the net to build a 16-6 advantage.
East Hardy’s Gabby Miller blocked a volley and SierraMarie Miller recorded a spike, but the Tigers pounced back with kills from Richards and Isabelle Rios.
Whetzel made a couple of digs, but Wirt County continued to apply pressure swinging at the net.
Richards launched a spike top a 19-7 advantage, then East Hardy’s Victoria Ames pushed the ball over and it couldn’t be corralled.
A serve by Ames was returned into the net, then Rios touched the net on an attack as the Millers defended.
SierraMarie Miller fired the ball over for a kill and Ames served an ace to cut the deficit to 19-12.
After a volleying error by the Cougars, Miller spike the ball and has a serve returned out of bounds.
Wirt County responded with two kills by Wyer for a 22-14 advantage and timeout was called.
After another spike by Wyer, the Cougars committed two errors as Wirt County claimed the first set 25-14.
Wirt County started with a 3-nil edge in the second set, but the Cougars pounced back for a 6-3 lead.
The Tigers began with an ace served by Richards, then Whetzel made a dig on the next serve.
Riggle blocked a volley and it was saved by Wirt County’s Jordan Hickman and Rios made a kill.[private]
An attack by the Cougars went into the net, then the next Wirt County serve landed in the net too.
Riggle’s serves were returned out of bounds twice by Rios and Sims.
Miller blocked a volley and Hickman got the dig before the ball ended up in the net.
Miller’s attack caromed back into the net by the Tigers and the momentum continued for East Hardy as Riggle delivered an ace for the 6-3 edge.
After an error by the Cougars, there was a service violation for the Tigers.
East Hardy’s Gabby Miller served up an ace, then Wirt County responded with a spike by Wyer.
SierraMarie Miller slammed the ball for a kill and Ames had the ensuing serve redirected into the net for a 10-5 advantage.
Sims made a kill for Wirt County, but the next serve went awry.
An attack by Richards caromed off the face of Ames for a point, but she was tough and remained in the game.
SierraMarie Miller put East Hardy up 12-7 with a spike.
The Tigers chipped away at the deficit with the help of errors plus kills and blocks by Rios and Wyer to lock up the set at 13-all.
Wyer made two straight blocks as the Tigers pounced ahead 14-13.
There were volleys hit into the net on both sides before attacks by Rios and Wyer resulted in points and a 17-14 edge.
A dig by Dyer went to Miller setting for Riggle, but the swing landed in the net.
Ames made a dig and Miller’s attack was blocked by Rios.
Wyer hammered the ball and the Cougars hit the net off a serve by Sims as the Tigers took a 21-14 lead.
Sims served up two straight aces with the first one causing all the Cougars to fall, 23-14.
A kill by East Hardy’s SierraMarie Miller broke the serve, but Wirt County answered with a block by Wyer on the next attack and finished off the second set with an ace by Hickman for a 25-15 score.
The Tigers were hungry for the state title prowling for an 11-nil appetizer to commence the third set of the championship match.
Wyer and Rios made big plays at the net and Sims delivered a couple of aces during the stretch for Wirt County.
East Hardy’s SierraMarie Miller garnered two points off attacks with passes from Courtney Shank.
An ace was served by Gabby Miller as the Cougars closed the gap to 11-3.
Shank’s attack was blocked by Wyer, then Miller punched the ball over and it was returned into the net.
Wirt County’s Wyer and Richards made kills and Skylar Bunch served up a couple aces for an 18-5 advantage.
East Hardy collected two points off consecutive blocks by Riggle to cut the deficit to 19-8, then the Tigers recorded the last six points to seal the championship 25-8.
A block by Sims and a kill by Richards were the final match points for Wirt County to garner its 13th title in program history.
“I am extremely honored. We have been working since our sophomore year. It is very nice to be recognized. We practiced hard everyday,” East Hardy senior SierraMarie Miller remarked.
“There were a lot of teams that weren’t able to be here, so we are honored to be here and to be recognized especially with the numbers in our hometown rising right now. We feel bad for those teams. We are happy we could finish down here.”
“We had the seniors and we lost them, then we had to work our way back up. I am very proud of us,” East Hardy senior Erin Riggle noted.
The Cougars handled the adversity this season with a positive attitude and return to Baker as the second best team in the state in addition to having the best sportsmanship to be proud of for years to come as the program continues to shine.
“I am extremely excited to say we started from the top and came from the bottom and all our hard work finally paid off. It was a lot of mental strength to get where we are now,” East Hardy senior Perry Whetzel added.
“We stayed positive out there. We didn’t know about the sportsmanship award, but we just stayed positive out here. It is special to be recognized,” Riggle concluded.[/private]