Gallery by Karen Akers
CHARLESTON – Motivation for great teams can come from strange places.
For the powerhouse Shady Spring volleyball team, it came from locker room companions Williamstown prior to its semifinal clash with Herbert Hoover in the state volleyball tournament.
Playing loose and free, the Tigers came out firing Wednesday night and steamrolled the Huskies 3-0 in their best-of-five battle.
“We don’t know Williamstown and we have never played Williamstown. We just happened to be in the same locker room tonight,” Shady Spring head coach Kelly Williams said. “We (as coaches) stayed out and I told the girls to have a good time. They played some music and before we knew it they were all cheering, dancing, had their phones up having a great time.”
The good time carried to the floor where Shady ran out to a 17-5 lead and cruised to a 25-14 win in the opening set.
All-stater Meg Williams dropped seven kills in the opening set and was a terror at the net for Herbert Hoover who could only get six balls down to open the match.
Williams ended the night with 18 kills across the three sets and explained the secret to her inspired play.
“To be honest, I ate a lot of sugar because I realized I play better when I am on a sugar high,” Williams said, laughing. “I had some sugar, so I think I was going off of that and I really got going.”
Prior to the sectional tournament, Shady Spring was easily playing its best volleyball of the year. However, an injury to Camille Testerman in the sectional match upset the apple cart a little bit.
The Tigers won the sectional and regional championship with Testerman watching from the bench, but Shady’s smooth running offense and defense showed some bumps along the way.
Testerman returned with a brace for her injured finger and played the libero position in the quarterfinal win Wednesday morning over Frankfort.
“I think that was a good choice and the girls really feel comfortable with her on the floor,” coach Williams said. “She is a great passer and she really helped us out for sure.”
With the junior standout back on the back row, the Shady machine was back in smooth running order, especially against Hoover.
“Camille is a great passer. Don’t get me wrong, when she was out, the others stepped up great, but just having her back on the court means a lot to us,” Chloe Thompson said. “She is a huge part of why we are even here. It meant a lot to me.”
Testerman sparked a strong serving night by the Tigers and was an integral part of the transition forward for Shady’s dominance at the net.
“She might not be able to play in the front row, but she still makes a big impact on the team being back row,” Meg Williams said.
The Huskies gathered themselves in the second set and played even with Shady to the midway point , then it all fell apart.
“You can’t play a set to just 15. We would hang with them point for point for long streaks and then they would go on a four or five (point) streak. You can’t do that against a good team like Shady,” Herbert Hoover head coach Anita King said. “I was really upset about miscommunication and the free balls. You can’t give them a free ball. That is not the kind of team where you can look at your teammate and she looks at you, then at the last minute you sling it over the net.”
Leading by one point at 13-12, Shady hit another gear with a block and a pair of kills by Williams. A kill from Thompson and an ace from Rachel Mann were all part of an 8-2 run to separate the set.
A pair of kills from freshman Reagan Mann and another kill from Williams sealed set two for the Tigers.
Wednesday night was the fourth time in a week that Shady and Hoover had battled with the Tigers taking all four matches without dropping a set.
“We have played them four times and we know their secrets and they know ours. I think the girls have mutual respect on both teams,” coach Williams said. “We did a fabulous job tonight. We played really smooth and played like a team and think that was the difference.”
With so many meetings in such a short span, one would think Shady might come out lethargic. Wednesday, the Tigers were anything but that.
“It is crazy because we have played Hoover (four) times in the last week. We know they are not going down without a fight. We knew no matter how many times we had seen them that we had to bring our A-game,” Thompson said.
Thompson recorded 12 kills on the night, often at critical times, but it was her defense that shine bright, diving for balls and recording crucial digs to keep the point alive for the Tigers.
“Sometimes we are categorized to be great at one thing, but we all really showed up everywhere and did everything that we needed to do,” Thompson said.
Set three was again tight in the early going and tied at 9-9 before the next Shady Spring explosion occurred.
Thompson nailed a kill to get things started before Testerman’s dig on a blast from Hoover led to a Shady bomb from Reagan Mann.
The two hitters combined on two more kills to cap a 4-0 spurt that was momentarily stopped on kill from Hoover all-stater Sydney Shamblin.
Meg Williams and Thompson led to another 4-0 spurt before the Huskies cut the lead back to 17-12.
“Meg did a great job with the power and Chloe was there to keep it all together, but she had some great, phenomenal hits too,” coach Williams said. “Sometimes you miss those little things, but they are really important. Sometimes it is a great pass to get you started. With Rachel and Reagan, serves are key and they listen on where we need the serves to go. Everyone did a great job.”
Five aces from Reagan Mann and two kills from Williams keyed an 8-0 run to send Shady Spring back to the state championship game for the fourth year in a row,
Shady’s locker room mates are the defending Class A champions and the Yellow Jackets will also be back to defend their title Thursday morning after beating Moorefield in straight sets.
“They had such a good time with Williamstown in the locker room that they were just loose and happy. I think that sometimes you have a tendency to forget about the fun of the game,” coach Williams said. “It was great to see them have a great time in the locker room. I think they just took it out on the floor with them.”
Waiting for the Tigers in the championship will be Philip Barbour who swept Oak Glen in their semifinal battle.
The Colts beat the Tigers in five sets last year for the state championship and Shady topped Philip Barbour in three sets for the 2020 crown.