High school championship memories never seem to fade, especially in small towns across West Virginia.
That is especially true in Monroe County and at James Monroe High School.
Riding the current wave of success by the boys basketball team which has won back-to-back Class A titles, the volleyball team is anxious to make its own run at some postseason glory this year.
“This group is fun and they are fun to watch. I am enjoying it so far and I am excited. They have shown a lot of improvement,” head coach Julie Bradley said. “I have a several players back and they have grown up in a year. I used to call them my babies, but now they have grown up on me.”
The Mavericks are no stranger to postseason success winning the 2014 Class AA state championship team. Bradley was an assistant coach that year.
James Monroe returned to the state tournament in 2017 before dropping a tough match to Winfield in the Class AA semifinals.
Last year the Mavericks were back in the big dance inside the Charleston Coliseum and Conventions Center, but fell in the Class A quarterfinals.
As could be expected with several returning varsity players, the ladies from Monroe County are anxious to get back to the Capital City.
“They are really hungry and they already have high expectations,” Bradley said. “I want them to have that as a goal, but every team in the state has that as a goal. We have to work through each game in order to prepare for that.”
A good portion of the excitement centers around the trio of all-state hitters that return for the Mavericks.
Junior Maggie Boroski, along with sophomores Aliyah Clarkson and Ava Pitzer led the team in kills last year, but are far more than front-line players. The threesome also led the team in aces and were near the top in nearly every statistical category.
While the returning all-staters will once again be a key part of the James Monroe success, the Mavs have plenty of solid players around them.
“Sadie Mann played a lot last year on varsity. Lindsey Dunbar has been slowed some by an ankle injury, but she has worked hard over the off-season and has really stepped up this year,” Bradley said. “Paige Amos is another senior that has stepped up. We can play her anywhere.”
Juniors Ava Dunlap and Hannah Rhodes will also be counted on for big contributions this season.
“Ava played both ways for us and has shown a lot of improvement. Hannah Rhodes was our other setter last year that started on varsity,” Bradley said. “She is quicker and working hard to get the ball out to those hitters. She is also solid on defense.”
Rhodes will lead the setters, but it is also a position where James Monroe has depth.
“Haleigh Mann was on our JV team last year and we have used her as a setter and back row player,” Bradley said. “Morgan Vass played JV last year. She is also a setter, along with Skylar Clarkson (Aliyah’s twin sister). Both were brought up last year to get some touches.”
Freshman Mya Dunlap, Ava’s sister, has been a nice addition in the middle for the Mavericks this season.
“She is a big basketball player and she is pretty natural in that middle,” Bradley said. “She is coming along. I am tickled with her.”
One of the main positives for her team according to the veteran coach is chemistry.
“This group is tight,” Bradley said. “The first day of practice, the returning group took in those players that were trying out and the freshman that made the team. They really worked with them and it made my job easier.”
James Monroe is off to a strong start going 4-1 to start the season. The only setback is to Class AAA Princeton. However, there are plenty of tough test ahead for the Lady Mavs.
“We have the Ravenswood Tournament Saturday,” Bradley said. “We will see Greenbrier West, who had our number last year, along with Tolsia and Moorefield who were at states. Doddridge County will be there too. That will help us some and let us know where we are and what we need to work on going forward.”
The schedule will also include a tri-match at Williamstown which will include Wood County Christian. The Yellowjackets are the two-time defending Class A state champions.
“I want them to play with an all grit, no quit attitude. I am pushing that way and we are getting a little tougher in practice.”
Next up for James Monroe will be a tri-match at home with Independence and Montcalm Wednesday.