Gallery by Greg Barnett
Princeton – Despite graduating several standout players, Beckley volleyball coach Bre Rhodes hasn’t worried when her team has fallen behind this season.
They’ve played together long enough to develop a chemistry and weather adversity.
Trailing 14-7 in the opening set of the Class AAA Region 3, Section 2 championship game, the Flying Eagles reaffirmed their coach’s confidence in them, rallying to tie the set at 24 and eventually win it 26-24. The momentum carried to the next two sets, both Beckley wins that secured the section title with a 3-0 sweep Thursday in Princeton.
The Flying Eagles overcame a 15-11 deficit in the second set to win 25-21 before running away with the third, 25-13.
“It was definitely big,” Rhodes said of the first-set rally. “Teams I’ve coached before wouldn’t have been able to dig out of that, so that’s big. It’s always a big thing when you can come out of a hole that big .. They don’t get down on themselves. They’re a very tight-knit team and that helps a lot.”
Leading 8-7 in the first set with senior Josi Ervin serving, East reeled off six straight points with an ace sprinkled in from the lefty.
The back and forth kicked off afterwards with a pair of Mollie Pack kills helping East keep Beckley at bay. Trailing 20-15 after a Gracie Gumm kill, Beckley ignited its comeback with Salia Harris at serve. The Flying Eagles scored five straight points to knot the contest with another Pack kill quelling the bleeding. Later tied at 24, the Flying Eagles completed the comeback, scoring the next two points to take a 1-0 advantage in the match.
Unfortunately for East, the second set was more of the same.
Leading 15-11, the Spartans yielded six straight points to the Flying Eagles with the set tying at 16 and 17 each. The Spartans regained momentum with a 3-0 run but Beckley closed with an 8-1 answer to secure the set.
“We made a couple mental errors,” East head coach Matt Sauvage said. “I thought our execution was very good tonight but we had some mental lapses that impacted us. We let one call effect a couple points there and you can’t do that. It’s like basketball where you can’t let one play impact the next few and we did. Give credit to Woodrow – they’re so athletic across the board and athleticism sometimes pays off.”
Having played in a match earlier to battle their way to the title game, East’s fatigue set in and the Flying Eagles blitzed to eliminate doubt.
After trailing 2-1, Beckley ran off nine straight points for a 10-2 lead. East was able to string points together later in the set, scoring four straight to make it an 18-6 deficit but the Flying Eagles kept the pressure on, securing the victory 25-13 and with it the sectional crown.
“We didn’t even practice yesterday, we just watched film,” Sauvage said. “It’s the point in the season where they’re getting a little tired anyway and coming into tonight I noticed Alexis, one of our outside hitters, toward the second set her legs were starting to give a little bit and I talked to her a little bit. She said she had it and about the second swing I said something wasn’t right. They’re just fatigued but it’s not a fatigue that’s going to last forever. She’ll be ready to go Saturday and I told them in the locker room we’re still going to regionals and still have a 50-50 shot at states so that’s got to be the complete focus now.”
“We take pride in being conditioned up until now,” Rhodes said. “We still condition and will still run the mile next week. Not losing legs, not being weak and being able to go five sets is what pushed us this far.”
Both teams advance to the Region 3 championship, held at Beckley, with each needing a win to secure a state tournament berth. East will play George Washington, the Section 1 winner while Beckley will play Capital.