VIENNA, W.Va. — Missy Smith knows what it feels like to win a state championship.
The volleyball coach at George Washington High School has guided the Patriots to Class AAA state titles three times, in 2005, 2006 and 2012.
Been there, done that, right?
Smith, whose frank way of explaining situations and assessing the sports world in which she operates, had trouble acting as if she’d been there before Thursday, when her Herbert Hoover softball team won the Class AA state title by coming from behind to down Ritchie County 12-6.
Asked what the title meant to her personally, Smith’s humorous and frank demeanor gave way to an overwhelming rush of gratitude, not to mention the weight of a lifetime of being tied to a Hoover softball program that had never before won a state championship in the sport.
“It’s everything. It is,” Smith said through a stream of sudden tears as her players gathered behind her, some awestruck by what they were seeing and hearing.
“Oh my gosh, Missy’s crying,” one said.
It was a touching moment that was as real as the trophy the Huskies hoisted at Jackson Park on Thursday. Smith’s father, West Virginia State assistant coach Nip Anderson, has long been tied to the Hoover program, where Smith played as a high
school student under former coach Mike Chandler.
She was quick to point out that the win was far from simply her own.
“It really belongs to everybody who’s ever played here,” Smith said. “We’ve had a lot of good teams that have come up short.
“It’s not just our state championship, it’s everybody. It’s all of Hoover,” she said.
As parents, students and fans gathered on to take team photos after the dramatic win in which the Huskies scored eight runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, a chant began to rise: “We are the mighty Huskies,” it went.
It wasn’t simply the peers of players chanting. The chanters included adults, many of whom had daughters or sisters who formerly played in the program. Young children rushed to congratulate current players like Kanawha Valley Player of the Year Allison Rager in awe.
Senior McKenzie Edmonds, one of four Huskies who were chosen to the All-Tournament team, explained what the victory meant to the team, the school and the Elk Fork area as a whole.
“Well, you can just look around and see it,” Edmonds said. “We love each other, everybody here. We have so many fans and as a team we’ve known each other for so long and even the ones that we just now met we bond together.
“We are a family that gets in arguments but picks each other up every time somebody needs picked up,” she added.
Winning state championships tends to bring out the community pride, good vibes and unconditional love in every sports fan. When a high school wins a state title after years of coming up short in otherwise winning season after winning season, there comes a release that often reaches out of the present into past generations.
Charleston Catholic winning the 2013 Class A baseball state title was one example of such a phenomenon. Magnolia breaking a 35-year drought to win the Class AA football title in 2010 was another. St. Albans’ Class AAA softball crown earlier in 2010 was yet another.
The same was the case Thursday as Smith broke down for the first time while hugging her mother amid generations of adoring and devoted Huskies softball fans.
Smith cherishes her success and volleyball titles at GW. But it is hard to imagine anything will top the feeling she experienced on Thursday.