The Kanawha Valley was guaranteed a spot in the Class AAA state volleyball title game with George Washington facing off against St. Albans on Friday in the semifinals.
Second-seeded GW swept the third-seeded Red Dragons in three sets, winning by scores of 25-23, 25-20, and 25-11 at the Charleston Coliseum to advance to the championship game, its eighth in team history.
“It feels amazing to be in the championship game,” GW coach Missy Smith said. “When you get here, you are one of eight teams that have a chance to win it and all eight teams are good. To be able to play the last game of the season in Class AAA is a big deal.”
The Patriots will play top seed Musselman at 9:30 a.m. Saturday for the title. The Applemen swept eighth seed Morgantown in the first round Friday before winning a five-set thriller against fifth seed Parkersburg in the semifinal later that evening.
The two teams have a rich history against each other, having competed against each other in now four championship games in the last eight seasons. GW defeated Musselman in the title games in 2012 and 2015 and the Applemen knocked off the Patriots in 2016.
“I think the two best teams are there, and hopefully we show up and play well,” Smith said. “Musselman has a good program and we do too. It’s going to be a good championship game. When you build good programs, the chances to play against each other in the finals is increasing.”
St. Albans (37-13-3) and GW (57-2-2) entered the high-profile semifinal experiencing different levels of success at the state tournament. GW has won six state volleyball championships in 1981, 1982, 2005, 2006, 2012, and 2015 with Smith winning the previous four titles. The Patriots also finished runner up in 2016.
Meanwhile, St. Albans has made the state tournament the previous four seasons, getting to the semifinals the last two seasons, but haven’t advanced to the championship game in program history.
GW had great success this season against St. Albans. The two teams had faced off against each other eight times with the Patriots winning them all, giving up just three sets in the process.
Smith anticipated another tough battle with St. Albans, and was glad to win in straight sets. The Patriots played the last match of the night in any of the three classes Friday and will play Saturday’s first title match.
“It is never easy against St. Albans,” Smith said. “Every time we play them, it’s a dogfight. I expected nothing less. We play the first final tomorrow so to get out of here earlier and beat a good team 3-0, that’s a big deal.”
Despite the tough ending to the season, St. Albans coach Rex Eggleton couldn’t have been more proud of his Red Dragons.
“It’s been such a great season,” Eggleton said. “They have fought so hard for everything they have earned. It’s the second year in a row getting to the semifinals.
“When we took over four years ago, they won six matches. The senior class has won 147 matches now, 32 being the least in their seasons. Our girls should always hold their head high for what they have done at St. Albans high school.”
GW defeated University and St. Albans defeated Hampshire, both in three sets, to advance to Friday’s semifinals.
Also on Saturday, in Class A, No. 1 seed Wirt County will play No. 3 Paden City in the championship game. In Class AA, No. 1 seed Oak Glen will take on No. 2 seed Shady Spring in the title game.
In Class AA, the Winfield girls’ tournament ended in the opening round. The sixth-seeded Generals made third-seeded Philip Barbour — the state champ the three seasons before last year’s second-place finish — earn every point in its victory.
When the Colts took a set in the match, taking the first 25-15 and the third 25-16, Winfield would bounce back and grab the next one, taking the second 25-20 and the fourth 25-21. Winfield’s gas tank started to run dry in the fifth, though, and PBHS finally prevailed 15-13.
“They left it all out there,” Winfield coach Todd Higginbotham said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them. That’s a great team [Philip Barbour] over there. We made them earn it. We didn’t give it to them.”