The two-sport sweep was ultimately too much to ignore.
For the first time since her dual-sport coaching career began in the 2005-06 school year, Missy Smith guided both of her squads — the George Washington volleyball and Herbert Hoover softball teams — to state titles in the same calendar year.
In doing so in 2019, Smith captured her fifth volleyball state championship, fourth softball state title and, finally, the Van Meter Award, given to the prep coach of the year as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
Smith beat out Martinsburg football coach Dave Walker, Oak Glen football coach Ted Arneault Jr., Bridgeport baseball coach Robert Shields and Wheeling Central football coach Mike Young.
Smith also becomes just the second woman to win the award since it began in 1943. Annette Olenchick earned the honor in 2003 while winning state titles in girls basketball and softball at Sissonville.
As it turns out, the connection between Smith and Olenchick stretches far beyond this award.
“She was my elementary school gym teacher,” Smith explained. “I can remember watching her teams at Sissonville and then again here recently at South Charleston. I love and respect her.”
Coaching two sports at two different schools brings unique challenges, and Smith had two vastly different jobs looking at her before the calendar turned to 2019.
First up was a Huskies team looking for its third straight Class AA softball state title and one coming off an historic 33-0 season. As a back-to-back state champion and riding a 34-game win streak into the season, Smith and the team had to carry some high expectations and one large bull’s-eye everywhere they went.
After outscoring opponents 136-6 over the first 11 games (all wins), Hoover’s streak ended at 45 with a 9-8 loss at Sissonville. Yet that would be the team’s only blemish as it went on to win its next 24 games, culminating in a 5-1 victory over Petersburg in the state championship game.
All told, Hoover is 69-1 over its last 70 games.
“Hoover has always been a winner and I’m happy just kind of not to let the ship sink,” Smith said. “We’ve been lucky to be pretty consistent over the last three years, but Hoover was a winning program when I took it over.”
Once volleyball rolled around in the fall, Smith had another tough task — convincing a Patriots team that had missed the state tournament in 2018 that it was good enough to win it all a year later. The Patriots did just that, sweeping Musselman in the Class AAA finals and rattling off 14 straight wins to end the season and earn the program’s first state title since 2015.
“It was one that was special because we didn’t qualify last year,” Smith said. “To win it and sweep it, that’s a big deal in anyone’s program. For that group to win it after having not qualified spoke to the focus they had the minute they came in in August.”
Even after nine championships, Smith said the feeling never gets old. And while all of them are special for their own reasons, she does have a couple of favorites.
“The two that meant the most are probably 2014 and 2017 softball,” Smith said. “The ’14 softball one was the first ever at Hoover. We’d been so close for so many years and had not gotten over the hump. Then in ’17, that was after the flood and ending the year with that was exciting.”
No matter which sport she’s coaching, Smith is the consummate coach, bringing passion and fire to the sidelines. It’s the same fire that fueled her through her own playing career, one that included playing three sports at Hoover and concluded as a two-sport athlete at Concord.
Her father, Nip Anderson, has coached softball at various levels for decades and currently serves as an assistant at West Virginia State. Coaching is quite literally in Smith’s blood.
She was named the MaxPreps National Softball Coach of the Year in 2018 and, at 41 years old, she said there are no thoughts of giving either job up any time soon.
“I have some core traits that are mine — I’m loud and intense and it gets heated sometimes,” Smith said. “Not every athlete responds to that, and that took some growing on my part to be able to reach every athlete. Some of my older players would probably say I’ve gone soft.
“I feel like the best part of it is after you win, some of your older players congratulate you and reach out. I’ve got old volleyball players that come back to the gym or will come out if we’re traveling to watch. That means a lot. When people that graduated want to come back and be a part of it, that transcends the sports themselves.”