Timberwolves seeking another volleyball title
SPRING VALLEY -- In 2004, Spring Valley High School won its first Class AAA sectional volleyball title. In 2009, the Timberwolves achieved another breakthrough, winning the Region IV title for the first time and going on to capture their first state championship.
"We've raised the bar a lot," Spring Valley senior captain Brittany Ritter said Monday prior to practice. "I remember when we didn't get out of the sectional."
Ritter was a freshman on the 2009 state championship team. Spring Valley made it to the state semifinals in 2010, then came back to win the championship in 2011. The Timberwolves go for a repeat this weekend in the West Virginia High School Tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
Spring Valley won sectional and regional titles again this year, beating rival Cabell Midland each time. The Timberwolves will meet Hedgesville in a quarterfinal match Friday afternoon.
"When I was a freshman and we won the state, I said we have to do it again," Ritter said. "It's nice to be called defending champion. As seniors, we have to get it done. Winning three in four years sounds good."
Coach Joy Bailey said her team has handled the pressure that comes with trying to repeat as state champion.
"The target's on our back," she said. "It's a game of momentum. You never know about the girls. If we play like we did at the regional, we'll be all right."
Bailey had some building to do this season. Autumn Ross and Kylie Perdue were seniors on the 2011 state title team. A torn ACL in off-season volleyball sidelined Megan Morrison for the season. She's a junior, so she has a year left. The Timberwolves (45-6-4) steadily developed and hit their peak in the post-season.
"There was a sense of urgency," Bailey said. "The state is what we strive for from the first day. We have good senior leaders and we worked hard in the offseason. The JO (Junior Olympic) program is big. You play in big club tournaments, see good competition and that helps."
Bailey called this state tournament "the toughest" she's seen coming in. George Washington and Parkersburg South are in the same half of the bracket as Spring Valley. The top half features Parkersburg, Greenbrier East, Musselman and Cabell Midland.
Spring Valley crossed paths with every state qualifier except Hedgesville. The players know Region III champion George Washington would love to meet them in the semifinals Friday night. The Timberwolves beat the Patriots in the first round in 2010 and in the semifinals (by two points in the fifth set) a year ago.
"They (GW) have incentive. We work on our game and make adjustments as necessary," Bailey said about the state game plan. "The girls know they're one step away."
Ritter, a two-time captain and three-year starter, became the second player in school history to surpass 1,000 digs. She's a go-to outsider hitter and stalwart on defense as well. Kendra Pemberton, a senior setter, captain and three-year starter, also has more than 1,000 career digs.
Underclassmen have emerged, too. Libero Sarah Kelly has the toughest serve on the team and is a go-to passer. Outsider hitter Kassidy Lemons is a power player. Both are sophomores.
"Everyone has a role," Bailey said.
Pemberton said the team has been focused all season.
"We knew we had to take it up a notch because our opponents have," she said. "We had to find another gear. To win the sectional and regional shows all that work paid off. To beat a good rival (Cabell Midland) makes it feel awesome.
"No goofing off now. It's nerve wracking not knowing anything about the opponent (Hedgesville). You can't overlook anyone."
Ritter recalled a mid-season slide, but admitted the Timberwolves are past that now.
"At one point it was ho-hum," she said. "At the sectional we got it going. The time we've put in, it's been worth it."
Bailey said being a state qualifier three of the past four years shows how far the program has come.
"We show a lot of respect, but we know what we can do," she said.
Volleyball state tournament schedule