Gallery by Heather Belcher
The atmosphere inside Dave Wills Gymnasium Tuesday night had an unusual feel.
On the court, Shady Spring was welcoming Class AAA volleyball powers Woodrow Wilson and George Washington in a regular season tri-match.
Creating the unusual atmosphere were students from both Raleigh County schools that came out to support their respective teams.
“The general feel of the gym tonight was something the girls had never felt before,” Shady Spring head coach Kelly Williams said. “We haven’t had a student section come out like that and represent Shady that well. Woodrow Wilson had their student section too. It is something I am really glad the girls got to experience.”
“Our girls thrive off that,” Woodrow Wilson head coach Bre Rhodes said. “I think COVID pushed that some because they didn’t get to do a lot last year, so they are getting in all that they can.”
“Shady and Woodrow both had great student sections and the atmosphere was great tonight,” George Washington head coach Missy Smith said. “We haven’t played in that type of environment before. I really appreciate when students come out and support volleyball.”
The play on the court did not disappoint the fans in attendance either.
Shady Spring was the big winner on the night beating both Woodrow and George Washington, while the Flying Eagles took down the Patriots in the opening match.
“We definitely pushed through some difficult times but it was great to see them bounce back and get the win,” Williams said. “It was nice to see the girls fight through their problems tonight.”
While both fanbases were energetic all night, the final match of the night between Woodrow Wilson and Shady Spring clearly provided the most electricity in the building.
With the opening set tied at nine, an ace from Camille Testerman ignited a 7-0 run which gave the Tigers a commanding lead. The Flying Eagles could never get closer than five points down the stretch in a 25-17 decision.
Woodrow Wilson came out firing in set two and jumped to a 7-0 lead behind well placed returns from Elysia Salon and Abby Wooton, as well as two big blocks up front from Olivia Ziolkowski.
Trailing 11-5, the Tigers came roaring back behind the inspired play of junior, Chloe Thompson who had a block and three kills during the run.
“Chloe has a hard hit and she knows when to turn it on,” Williams said. “She can shut the crowd up and she can get them on their feet depending on the situation.”
The lead would bounce back and forth, but with Woodrow leading 16-15, Shady ran off six straight points that included a block from Paydon Smith and three aces from Testerman.
“It is good to have Camille back for sure and Braylie Wiseman stepped in and did a great job. I can’t say enough about all of the girls,” Williams said. “Before we got out on the floor, I told them everyone is here, and it has to be a team effort. We can’t win with one or two kids. I think the girls truly understand that concept.”
Shady would take set two, 25-21 to win the match.
Prior to the match against Woodrow, Shady Spring battled George Washington in a slugfest.
After jumping on the Patriots for a 25-10 win in set one, set two was much different. Leading 4-3, the Patriots went on 8-0 run and Shady never recovered in a 25-19 defeat.
The deciding third set did not start well for Shady either as it went down quickly, 7-2.
However, a lineup change to start the third set paid big dividends when freshman Rachel Mann ignited an 8-0 run for the Tigers with a serve that kept the Patriots off balance and out of rhythm.
“It is what we keep talking about. Sometimes things factor in and it can be your turn next,” Williams said. “When I call their name, they have to be ready to play. Rachel represented and she did a great job for us.”
George Washington would cut the lead back to one, but a kill by Kelsie Dangerfield and a beautiful set from Dangerfield to Thompson re-ignited the Tigers in a 25-17 win.
“Kelsie knows she is kinda the rock of this team. The girls feed off of her. She is not a highly emotional play, but she is a solid, level player and that is what we need.” Williams said.
In the opening match of the night, the Flying Eagles beat their rivals from Charleston 25-21 in the first set. George Washington answered with a 25-21 win before Woodrow closed out the match with a 25-19 win.
While Salon was providing bombs on the outside and hurting the Patriots at the service line, Woodrow was wreaking havoc with their middle combo of Ziolkowski and Zamahya Moss.
“We have made some changes and made some major improvements. We are not where we want to be and that is fine,” Rhodes said. “Our middles have really focused on those blocks. Both GW and Shady play quick offense, so we want to get those blocks and they did what they needed to do. I liked what I saw tonight.”
“I thought we were inconsistent. We played really well at times and then not so well at times,” Smith said. “We had an injury yesterday at practice, but it is what it is. Injuries happen every day. We had some freshmen out there playing that had never played varsity, but they did well. We didn’t get off to good starts, but our second sets in both matches were really good.
“If we get to run the same lineup for more than a week and a half, I will feel better about things. They played hard and we have girls stepping up and playing well in spots, we just have to play well together.”
Woodrow Wilson is back in action Thursday when it hosts Greenbrier East and Williamstown. Shady Spring travels to Philip Barbour Saturday for a clash with the Colts and Frankfort.