Midland girls set for state tourney
ONA -- Cabell Midand's volleyball team is doing something this week it hasn't done in a few years. The Knights are practicing for the West Virginia High School State Tournament.
"This is one of the most determined teams I've ever coached," Knights coach Cindy Machmer said Wednesday prior to practice. "We'd had enough (not going to the state). Going means a lot, but we can't just be happy with getting there."
Machmer said the Knights last made the trip to Charleston in either 2004 or 2005. After that, they kept getting bounced in Class AAA, Region IV play by either Parkersburg or Spring Valley. The Parkersburg Big Reds were shifted to Region I starting this season and that opened the door for the Knights.
Cabell Midland qualified for the state by finishing runner-up to defending Class AAA champion Spring Valley in the Region IV finals. The Knights are in the upper half of the state bracket and face Musselman in the quarterfinal round Friday at about 10:30 a.m. at the Charleston Civic Center.
This trip is special for the Cabell Midland seniors who finally get to experience the state tournament atmosphere.
"We've put everything into it. What do we have to lose?" senior outside hitter Cassie Weaver said. Weaver is considered the team's best all-around player and has given a verbal commitment to Marshall University along with teammate Taylor Reidel.
For Reidel, this state trip is extra special. The team captain suffered a severe elbow injury early in the season in a tournament at Parkersburg and has been sidelined for 6 1/2 weeks. She's got a brace on now and it's possible she could see action Friday. In recent years, she watched the season come to an early close and appreciates the chance to perform on the big stage.
"I dove for a ball and a girl dove on top of my elbow," she said. "It's been tough to watch. I'm used to being the leader on the court. I'm not used to being on the bench, but I've been someone they can still count on. This is such a blessing."
Parkersburg and Greenbrier East are in the same half of the bracket with Cabell Midland and Musselman. Those winners will meet in the semfinals Friday night. George Washington, Parkersburg South, Spring Valley and Hedgesville are in the lower half of the bracket. The championship match is scheduled Saturday morning after the 10 a.m. Class AA finale.
Machmer said the Knights adjusted to Reidel's loss. They had to get used to not having their coach around as well as she missed time after back surgery. She gave credit to Claudia Chapman (setter) and Keeley Thompson (hitter) for the jobs they did after Reidel went down.
"We've been through so much, but we stayed competitive," Machmer said. "We're going in hot right now. Underdog? I don't think you'd look at any team that way. There's no weak link."
Machmer said the state tournament is wide open. The Knights have played and beaten everyone in the field except their first-round opponent.
"I absolutely love it," Machmer said of having a mystery opponent so to speak. "We go in full force. You take nothing for granted. They know nothing about us. They have two 6-foot players. They're hard hitters and scrappy. They're the full package."
Machmer said the Knights must shore up one area. They've had a tendency to fall behind early in matches and have to battle back to win .
"We get down five or six points, but we're notorious for fighting our way back," Macher said. "When it comes to push time, we step it up. The ones we lost, silly mistakes cost us, too."
Weaver's been with the Knights four years. She's a candidate for Mountain State Athletic Conference and Gatorade West Virginia player of the year. She made first-team all-state last year. Machmer calls her a full rotation player. She has 535 kills, 67 service aces, 472 digs aznd 92 blocks.
"She's got power on offense and power on defense," Machmer said. "The fact she and Taylor have given verbals to Marshall speaks volumes. She's the total package. You can't say that about many players."
Machmer said she's also gotten strong play from Jenny Brumfield (outside hitter) and Erin Bowling (middle hitter).
Reidel and Weaver said it's special to have practice at this time of year.
"I've watched in the stands. That's not fun," Reidel said. "I told the girls I'm more excited this year because I get the chance to play again."
"It's exciting for me and the team," Weaver said. "When we lost Taylor, we had to make some adjustments. We had some adversity, but made it through. This team has a lot of heart."