Race is on for AAA volleyball crown

PARKERSBURG – The road to the West Virginia state volleyball tournament begins at 5:30 p.m. today for Parkersburg and Parkersburg South inside the Rod Oldham Athletic Center.

The two Class AAA programs from Wood County will begin their respective postseason run during the Region I, Section 1 single-elimination tournament.

Host PSHS, the No. 2 seed, will take on third-seeded Wheeling Park, which has lost all four of its matches this season to head coach Becky Bennett’s program.

“We’ve talked about that,” coach Bennett said of not taking the other Patriots lightly. “You have to go out and play to win every time. It’s do or die.”

Veteran PHS head man Carl Harnish’s gang is coming off its third straight Mountain State Athletic Conference championship victory on Saturday. The Big Reds, who knocked off Spring Valley in straight sets to capture their fourth MSAC crown in the past five years, is the top seed and faces No. 4 Brooke.

“We’ve seen Wheeling Park, but not Brooke,” said Harnish, whose Big Reds didn’t wrap up their MSAC title until just after midnight in what turned out to be a 13-hour day.

Alexandra Dils leads the Big Reds with nearly 500 kills, but the trio of Courtney Ball, Alison Schumacher and Samantha Shingleton have combined for nearly 600 downed spikes.

Shada Harnish leads the team with 59 aces, setter Lyxi Reeder paces the red and white in assists with 868 while Kaitlyn Farrah and Nicole Bradford have combined for 501 digs.

“I hope we are not peaking a week too early,” coach Harnish added. “Everything looked well (at the MSAC) but our blocking could be better, but the rest of the game was looking good.

“Alexandra’s thumb is still hurting a little bit. It’s sore as all get out. She’s been playing with it for about two weeks now, but she’s been playing well with it so I can’t complain.”

PHS has won nine straight matches and like Parkersburg South needs only to win its sectional semifinal to advance to Saturday’s regional in Morgantown.

If Parkersburg South can defeat Wheeling Park again in the best-of-five match the local Patriots will need just a semifinal regional triumph to qualify to state for a second straight campaign.

For the past month-plus, coach Bennett has used the same 10 person lineup and it seems to be paying dividends.

Setter Taylor Ratliff keys the offense and has the services of Kasey Williams and Nicole Landis on the outside, Brittany Boso and Sara McPeek on the backside along with middle hitters Kayleigh Rexroad and Katelyn Byrd.

Libero Logan Somerville plays the back row for both middle hitters and the Patriots use Lexi Hoover and Katie Harper as defensive specialists.

“The last time we played Wheeling Park they beat us (a set) and if we don’t get past Wheeling Park nothing else matters,” said the coach. “We have to concentrate on Wheeling Park.

“The girls, when we talked, they said we can’t think about PHS, the regional or state. The girls have to come out ready to play and focused on the things we need to do.”