Midland duo signs to play with Herd
ONA -- On a day when Marshall University honored 75 of its fallen sons, the Thundering Herd athletic family gained two daughters who know all about what the school means to the Tri-State.
Cabell Midland High School volleyball standouts Taylor Riedel and Cassie Weaver signed National Letters of Intent at school Wednesday to play volleyball for Marshall.
"I'm excited to play for my hometown in front of everybody," Weaver said. "Our friends and our families will be able to see us play in college."
For Riedel, the choice to go to Marshall continues a legacy that's been in her family since she was born.
She is following in her mother Cheryl's footsteps as a volleyball player for the Herd and her father Scott also donned the green and white for the football team.
Now, Riedel joins her brother Ryan as the new crop of Marshall-playing Riedels. Ryan is a freshman for the Herd football team.
For her, the decision to sign at Marshall was a pretty easy one, given her family connections.
Such was not the same for Weaver, who was a West Virginia University fan for much of her childhood.
That quickly changed once she got more involved in volleyball.
"I grew up a WVU fan, but being around everybody, you can't ignore the fact that we're 10 minutes away from Marshall," Weaver said. "When I started playing for River Cities (volleyball club), I started going to Marshall volleyball games and when (step-father Teddy (Johnson) came into my life, I started going to Marshall basketball and football games. I can't get enough of it now."
The River Cities Thunder Volleyball Club not only turned both Weaver and Riedel on to the thoughts of playing volleyball at the collegiate level, but also exposed them to Marshall coach Mitch Jacobs and assistant coach Kimberly Martinez, who help run the club.
Under their guidance, the girls' games elevated quickly and not only did they become two of the best players for their age on the club level, they became two of the best players in the state.
Both were Class AAA all-state first team selections in 2011 and entered the 2012 season with lots of expectations.
Those expectations took an unexpected twist when Riedel tore a ligament in her elbow in the middle of the season -- an injury that was sure to derail the rest of her senior year.
Riedel, the team's captain, had always been the leader of the group on and off the court, but with her confined to just being the vocal leader, Weaver was forced to step into more of a leadership role on the court.
"I'm not the leader-type because I've always had Taylor and I didn't need to be in that role," Weaver said. "When she got hurt and wasn't with us, she was the leader on the sideline but out there (on the court), if we got down, I had to bring myself up and bring the team up. I had to make sure everyone stayed on track."
Behind a strong team performance and the growth of the strong-willed Weaver as a leader, Cabell Midland made the state tournament and got the ultimate surprise -- Riedel was cleared to play for the state quarterfinal matchup.
Even though it ended in a loss, it was great closure for the high school careers of two great friends as they went out side-by-side.
"It was honestly a miracle that I got to play in the state tournament because all of my doctors and physical therapists said there's no way you'll be back," Riedel said. "It felt great to be able to play for the last time in my senior year, even though we lost."
Now, they are looking forward to what the future holds. They also understand the responsibility to the community for which they are playing.
When they were young, there was no real local presence in volleyball to aspire to be, but as the sport has grown through the River Cities Thunder Volleyball Club, so has the talent in the area.
The duo now wants to make sure they serve as inspiration for those younger players hoping to follow a similar path.
"It's great to play in our hometown because we can encourage younger girls who have played in the club -- girls that say 'I can't imagine playing Division I volleyball,'" Riedel said. "They can see us and say it's possible for players from around here to do it."