CHARLESTON — One thing Class AAA volleyball in the Mountain State rarely lacks is talent.
Such was the case once again in 2021 as Musselman bested fellow Eastern Panhandle program Hedgesville for the state crown to repeat as champions.
However, senior Skylar Yates of Hedgesville was chosen captain of the all-state first team by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
The Charleston Southern signee was the only repeat selection on the first unit.
“Skylar is a phenomenal volleyball player, but also just a great kid,” admitted first-year Eagles head coach Allison Whitford, who watched the senior pound out 592 kills with a .392 hitting efficiency. “She works had in everything she does, has a 4.6 GPA, a strong faith and a member of countless different extracurricular activities.
“Even through all of Skylar’s successes these last few years, she hasn’t changed a bit. She still shows up every day humble and ready to work hard. She always puts her teammates first. Sometimes it felt like Skylar was another coach on the court. She is a natural leader and has such a great volleyball IQ.”
Yates, who also had 56 aces, 50 total blocks and 306 digs, along with her teammates helped HHS to its first state finals appearance since 2002 when the Eagles won it all.
The Applemen of head man Shawn Martz landed junior Hannah Howard and senior Kent State signee Sadie Wright on the first team. It was the third appearance for both.
Howard hit .305 and finished with 478 downed spikes. She had 79 aces, 427 digs and 27 total blocks. Wright, who missed a little time with an injury, finished with 179 kills via a .404 hitting efficiency. She added 10 aces and 51 solo blocks.
“We had a really balanced team, but when we needed to score in the clutch Hannah and Sadie were our go to players more often than not,” Martz noted.
“And, more often than not they came through. They are both big-time players and will go down as two of our best at their positions.”
Woodrow Wilson’s Elysia Salon also made her initial appearance on the first team. The Flying Eagles senior had her season come to a close following a state quarterfinal setback to George Washington. Salon had 606 kills and hit .205 while producing 486 digs, 57 aces and 14 total blocks.
Spring Valley senior Kennedy Stanley, who was named the Mountain State Athletic Conference player of the year, registered 583 downed spikes while hitting .295. She also had 507 digs, 47 aces and four dozen total stuffs.
Aside from Musselman, the only other program to land a pair of players on the first team was George Washington thanks to seniors Molly Grimm and Faith Smith. Grimm hit .239 with 488 kills, 363 digs, 63 aces and 42 total blocks. Smith was four kills shy of 400, hit .365, and also had 51 aces, 69 solo blocks and 107 total blocks.
Two other players — Bridgeport senior Violet Sickles and Morgantown junior Paige Brock — had their seasons come to an end by Hedgesville. The Indians lost in the quarterfinals to the Eagles and the Mohigans fell in the semifinals. Sickles, who joined Salon in moving up from the second team in 2020, hit .292 with 400 kills, 176 digs, 47 aces and 24 total blocks. Brock not only had 520 assists and 47 aces, but she added 195 kills while hitting .229 with 226 digs and 34 total blocks.
The only sophomore on the first team was Greenbrier East libero Dia Sauvage. The Spartan not only served at better than 92%, but she had 106 aces, 730 digs, 54 assists and finished at 95% on 903 serve-receive opportunities.
Morgantown sophomore Issy Gruschecky was selected captain of the second team.
Also earning spots on the second unit were seniors Nevaeh Wooding of Greenbrier East, Caroline Shipley of Musselman, Olivia Ziolkowski of Woodrow Wilson, Kantley McKown of Hurricane and Capital’s Kayla Moffatt.
The four juniors on second team were Hedgesville’s Paige Richmond, Parkersburg’s Rylee Wise, Bridgeport’s Alexa Martin and Buckhannon-Upshur’s Kendal Currence.