By Jay Bennett, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
CHARLESTON — The Williamstown volleyball team knew it would take a superb defensive effort to win the Class A state championship as the No. 2 seed against rival and top-seeded Ritchie County.
The Yellowjackets of head coach Rachelle Cole watched her team do exactly what she hoped for as WHS was able to claim the school’s fourth state crown.
Leading the way all season long was four-year starting setter Lakyn Joy, who was chosen first team all-state captain by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“Lakyn is the second girl I’ve coached who earned captain honors on first team,” admitted coach Cole, who watched Joy go for 30 assists, 18 digs, an ace, three kills and two blocks in her last match. “There are many reasons this is well deserved. She works hard every single day. Comes to practice with a good attitude. She’s selfless. Always puts her team first and is an exceptional leader.
“I feel incredibly honored to have her as a part of this team for the last four years. She’s a strong leader on the court with running our offense. She was the glue that held our offense together. Her court knowledge and understanding of the opponents’ defensive setup make her a threat in delivering the ball to the hitters and picking them apart with her tip ability.”
Joy, who was able to surpass 3,000 career assists, finished the campaign with 66 aces, 392 digs, 74 downed spikes, 29 blocks and 923 assists.
Two-time Little Kanawha Conference player of the year Rebekah Rupert of Ritchie County was the only repeat honoree on the first team. The junior Rebel pounded out 578 kills, registered 158 blocks and served up 49 aces. She had 30 kills and 11 blocks in the title match.
Buffalo was the only non-LKC program to reach the state semifinals. The Bison, who were denied a shot at the state title match after being eliminated by Williamstown, was represented on the first team by Chloe Hale. BHS head coach Barry Clendenin watched Hale finish with 462 kills while posting a .416 hitting efficiency. She also had 104 aces and 41 solo blocks.
State semifinalist Gilmer County was represented on the first unit by senior libero Emma Taylor, who had 58 aces, 25 kills and 531 digs.
Greenbrier West, which lost to the Titans in the state quarterfinals, landed senior middle hitter Kenzie O’Dell on first team.
Tyler Consolidated senior Caleigh Phillips amassed a .430 hitting efficiency on 405 kills. The Silver Knight also recorded 315 assists as well as 115 total blocks.
James Monroe senior middle hitter Shannon Phipps also earned a first team nod. In her final season with the Mavericks, she had 275 kills, 103 aces, 128 digs and 55 blocks. She was a 92.3% server and had a .331 hitting efficiency.
Along with Joy, Williamstown also landed senior libero Jillian Modesitt on the top unit. Modesitt, who surpassed 2,000 career digs during the state tournament, had a championship match-high 26 digs. Overall, she produced 23 aces and 499 digs.
“She sacrificed her body daily on the floor and elevated the game of the girls around her,” added coach Cole. “She got to balls that shocked us as coaches. She inspired others, believed in the people around her and never gave them less than the absolute best she could.”
Rounding out the all-state first team were Parkersburg Catholic senior Elaina Ross and Ritchie County’s Abby Nichols. Ross was four kills shy of 200 and added 73 solo blocks, 54 block assists, 54 aces and 65 digs for the Crusaderettes. The Rebel setter concluded her junior campaign with 58 aces and 1,017 assists.
Ritchie County senior Olivia Cress, who had 314 kills and 142 blocks, was named captain of the all-state second team.
Also earning second team status were Moorefield junior Sterling Kump, James Monroe senior Lilly Jackson, Tyler Consolidated sophomore Braeden Wall, Clay-Battelle junior Kendal Saul, Ravenswood freshman Macey Casto, Greenbrier West senior Natalie Agee, Buffalo senior Katie Darnley, Charleston Catholic senior Chloe Clark and Summers County junior Sullivan Pivont.