Gallery by Karen Akers
Shady Spring seniors Meg Williams and Chloe Thompson entered Saturday’s Region 3 volleyball tournament having never lost a regional match.
The record for the dynamic duo is still in tact.
Coming off their fourth straight Class AA Region 3, Section 1 title of their career Thursday, the twosome helped lead the Tigers to their fourth straight regional crown.
Shady Spring powered past PikeView in the semifinals 3-0 (25-12, 25-16, 25-8) before securing the regional title by sweeping Herbert Hoover (25-22, 25-11, 25-10).
“Like we have talked about before, for the last two weeks we have worked on communication and that really kicked in. Our service errors hurt us, but that was about it. For Kadence (Stump) and Alivia (Stover) to step in after Camille (Testerman) got hurt, that is huge and we haven’t really skipped a beat. We are hoping to have Camille for states. Communication is what it takes. If we can do that, we can keep the success going.”
In the opening match against the Panthers, Shady Spring controlled the action, but looked a little sluggish at times. Williams attributed much of it to a grueling week of sectional play.
“It helps to play good competition, but this week has been grueling. We have been out until 9:30 or 10 o’clock every night. Hoover has traveled from Charleston every single night,” Williams said. “Friday they were exhausted and the girls were tired. We sent them home just to rest. That first match you could tell we were a little tired. Our legs were wobbly and we weren’t taking care of the ball like we normally do, even though we were winning. They kicked in and they were focused.”
Following the win by Shady Spring over PikeView, Herbert Hoover faced off with Section 2 champion Wyoming East for the remaining spot in the regional championship.
The Huskies jumped on the up-start Warriors racing out to an 11-0 lead on their way to a 25-12 win in set one. The early struggles continued for East who fell behind 10-1 in set two.
Although they found themselves in a big hole, the Warriors fought back to within one point, 23-22, late in the match on a kill and an ace from freshman Carli Raye.
Senior all-stater Sydney Shamblin ended the comeback bid by East with a well-placed tip and an ace to seal set two.
The Warriors avoided an early deficit in set three, but Hoover methodically built a nine-point lead at 20-11 before East again tried to make a match saving comeback.
With the lead cut back to two points, the Huskies pulled away behind an East service error and a tip from sophomore Ashton Henrich that found an open spot in the middle of the floor.
A kill from Shamblin sealed the match and secured a spot in the state volleyball tournament for Hoover.
“As you could tell our team was little off today. A lot of it was nerves, but over half of our team came down with the flu Wednesday. We couldn’t even practice,” Wyoming East head coach Tabitha Lusk said. “We tried to practice this morning before we came (to Independence) to get our hands on the ball a little bit. Not to take anything away from Herbert Hoover, they are a great team.”
Under the tough circumstances, Lusk was extremely happy with the fight displayed by her young team.
“Our team is gritty and they don’t give up very easy. From years past, we are used to being underdogs and fighting our way to the top,” Lusk said. “I was never worried about them giving up, but I was worried about the nerves coming in. We have never been at this level before and a lot of my girls are young. I do hate this for my seniors this year, but I am already looking forward to next year.”
Hoover was also battling fatigue and illness Saturday. After a strong first set against Shady, the final two sets easily went to the Tigers.
“I am really proud of the team for getting the win against Wyoming East. Unfortunately, we are still dealing with some illness,” Herbert Hoover head coach Anita King said. “Our starting setter woke up sick Friday. She played in the must win match against Wyoming East and the first set with Shady. Then she said she had some trouble breathing. We had to pull a hitter and make her a setter. On top of that we struggled with serve receive and you are running a new setter all over the court.”
Along with winning every sectional and regional match over their career, Williams and Thompson have also not dropped a set to a AA Region 3 opponent.
“I can’t say enough about how much work those girls have put in. A lot of times it is easy to blame whoever or whatever for problems. Sometimes you just have to get in the gym and get better,” coach Williams said. “Those girls have stayed in that gym and played and practice and played and practiced. They have gone all over the state to try and get better. I think it shows. They come to play every time they get on that floor.”
“Until I went back and looked, I didn’t realize we hadn’t even lost a set. We have fought and fought, year after year and that was probably the most we have beat Hoover by in years. Hopefully that shows how ready we are going to the state tournament,” Thompson said.
Entering high school, both players expected to be successful, but not quite to the level they have now achieved.
“It’s amazing that we have been able to do something like that. Crazy actually. I never imagined this type of success. I imagined success, but not this type of success,” Meg Williams said. “We definitely have worked hard every day in practice and it shows when we play. Coaching has been great and everyone has been great.”
Both Shady Spring and Herbert Hoover advance to the state volleyball tournament starting Wednesday at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. Times and opponents are still to be determined.