CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Somewhat uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.When George Washington won the Class AAA volleyball state championship last year, it rekindled memories of some of the great Patriots teams of the past - teams that won back-to-back crowns in 1981-82 and again in 2005-06.If GW is going to put together another repeat, it's going to have to "get mentally tougher,'' according to coach Missy Smith.The Patriots fell to Parkersburg 27-25, 25-11 in the opening round of matches at the Civic Center Volleyball Showcase Thursday evening, the final day of competition in the ninth annual event.It marked the third time this season GW has lost to the Big Reds (10-3-1)."They've all been similar,'' Smith said. "We'll be close and then one or two plays, and it's over. Then in the second game, we don't play as well. [Parkersburg's] a tough team . . . they're one of the best teams in the state.''Smith knows her team now wears a target following its run to the 2012 state title, but also fully realizes something else."We graduated nine of the 12 that were on that state championship team,'' she said, "so some of the girls wearing the target didn't have anything to do with it. We're working hard and getting better, and that's all I can ask them to do.
"We need to get mentally tougher. We're as good physically as anybody and we'll be right in a game, then blow a couple plays and the game's over, and we give up big runs. So we have to get mentally tougher.''GW carried a 10-6-2 record into its final match at the Civic Center late Thursday.Smith expects a battle once the postseason begins, with sectionals set for Nov. 4-7 and regionals on Nov. 9. The top two teams advance from each sectional and each regional, with the state tournament set for the Civic Center Nov. 15-16.Other teams to watch in AAA Region 3 Section 1, according to Smith, are Capital and South Charleston, with Woodrow Wilson, Greenbrier East and Riverside possibly looming in the regionals."It's not going to be easy getting back [to the state tournament] - absolutely,'' Smith said. "People are building programs and travel ball is growing and more kids are playing volleyball year-round. It's making programs better and teams better."Our sectional and regional are tough, but I definitely think we've got a shot. It's going to be tough for us to get through but if we play well, we've got a shot.''In other early Showcase matches Thursday, Nitro beat Ripley 26-24, 25-21, Huntington topped Hurricane 27-25, 27-25 and Wirt County bested Nicholas County 25-16, 25-12. Each team was guaranteed two matches.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.