Shady Spring head volleyball coach Kelly Williams vowed to make the Lady Tigers a championship contender when she took over the reins in 2016.
“Maybe not this year, but in years to come, we want to challenge for a state championship. We are going to try and build our program with the kids we have and also reach out to the younger players in the area,” Williams said in an interview prior to her first high school season.
Although Shady Spring is in the midst of four consecutive state tournament appearances, it eventually was that influx of young players which Williams referred to that finally helped the Lady Tigers capture the 2020 state title.
One of those young players also happens to be the coaches’ daughter, Meg Williams.
“It’s been a wonderful experience to share with her. When you see, hear and feel the excitement and energy on the floor, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Kelly Williams said. “The fact that I can be a part of that as a coach and a parent is amazing.”
The elder Williams played volleyball at Buckhannon-Upshur High School before going on to play at Fairmont State.
So, for Meg to play volleyball seemed to be a no-brainer, right? It turned out that it was, sorta.
“It all started when I would go to the Woodrow Wilson (volleyball) camps before I started playing at Daniels Elementary. I played travel ball to get better and mom worked with me a lot,” Meg Williams said. “I think mom was a little worried about me not wanting to do anything where I was always in the gym because of my brothers. I ended up playing volleyball and I liked it a lot.”
Now a rising junior, Meg Williams can make the game look somewhat easy at times, but it was not always that way for the two-time, first team all-stater.
“I really had to work at it because (volleyball) didn’t come naturally at first. It took lots of practice,” Williams said. “(My mom) has always pushed me to do my best and I want to make her proud. That is why I work as hard as I can so she doesn’t have to say anything to me.”
The hard work has helped Williams develop into one of the state’s most dangerous threats along the net. And while the explosive kills are impossible to miss, Williams is more than just a power hitter.
“I played every position when I was younger,” Williams said. “I was a setter at one point and a libero at one point. I just felt like if I was put in a position I was going to try and be the best at that position.”
Meg Williams hardly looked like a freshman when she exploded onto the high school scene recording 437 kills and helping guide Shady Spring to a runner-up finish at the state tournament in 2019.
“I have been around here as long as mom has been here, so I don’t think it was really hard,” Meg Williams said about the transition to high school. “I played up (in age) during travel ball and I am used to playing against bigger and stronger girls.”
To be such an explosive hitter in a highly emotional game, Williams is amazingly calm on the floor.
“I just try to stay calm because getting mad or upset isn’t going to help. You have to keep moving forward and I think we all know that. There is always another opportunity and we will get the next one,” Williams said.
Williams faced an even bigger challenge her sophomore season when she was asked to change position and move primarily to the middle of the front row.
The transition took time, but paid huge dividends in Shady’s run to the title.
“That was rough. I was not used to that and it was a lot harder,” Williams admitted. “You have to really be in shape and be really fast. I lacked some of that stuff, so I just had to work really hard. You have to do a lot in the middle and you are constantly moving up and down and side to side.”
The unselfish move to the middle was a key factor in Shady Spring winning the state championship. However, Williams doesn’t see her move to the middle as the key, she feels team chemistry was the main reason for the Lady Tigers eventual success.
“I think just being such a good group together was the most important. We all liked each other and we all worked together. We talked with each other, laughed and cried with each other. We just knew each other really well,” Williams said.
Heading into the 2021 season there will likely be no big position changes, but repeating as state champions will have its challenges for Shady Spring.
“We will have to have some people step up, which I think they will,” Williams said. “We will have to work hard, but I think we can do it.”