GW sweeps to AAA state volleyball title
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For George Washington's nine seniors, it was mission accomplished Saturday afternoon.
The Patriots swept past Musselman 25-21, 25-23 and 25-13 to capture the Class AAA championship at the state high school volleyball tournament. A crowd of about 600, including a healthy portion clad in GW's maroon, attended at the Civic Center.
GW (47-10-3) won its fifth title to go along with back-to-back crowns won in 1981-82 and 2005-2006. Several of the Patriots wore a black armband with a white "73'' emblazoned on it for freshman Drew Morton, a GW football player who was killed in a car accident earlier during the school year.
GW's senior class lost in the opening round of states as sophomores then fell in the semifinals last year before Saturday's triumph.
The Patriots dispatched defending state champion Spring Valley in Friday's semifinals after the Timberwolves had beaten them in last year's semifinals.
Musselman won the Queen of the Hill regular-season tournament at GW the past two years.
"We came together perfectly,'' said GW 6-foot-3 senior Hannah Shreve, who has committed to West Virginia University. "We've been on a long journey the past four years and we just wanted it this year really bad.
"We had a talk before the game that we were going to come together and just do our job. It feels great to play the last game and feel great about it.''
Patriots coach Missy Smith, who has been at the helm of the last three championships, also received the National Federation Coaches Association Active Award after her team's victory. The award recognizes coaches for their dedication, commitment to excellence and promotion of the ideas of interscholastic athletics.
"They picked the best day to play their best game,'' said Smith of her players. "We didn't play as well in the first two rounds of states, but today they would not be denied.
"Just heart and guts. I can't speak enough about this group and how much they have of that. I can't coach that. I can't teach them that. That's what they bring to the table. They brought a lot of it today.''
GW took an 18-14 lead in the opening game and never gave up the lead in taking it 25-21 on junior Tori Strong's kill.
The second game was tighter as the Applemen tied it at 23-all on a rare unforced Patriots' error off a bad set. GW, though, won the last two points on back-to-back kills from Shreve and senior Lexi Mourier for a 25-23 win.
GW jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the third game and never looked back as senior Jordan Wittekind served up eight straight points. Musselman closed to 8-5, tallying five points in a row, but the Patriots responded with four straight to go up 13-5. GW then scored eight of the next 10 points to wrap up the title on Shreve's kill.
The Patriots came together near the net and embraced one another in celebration of reaching their goal.
"This year we were determined to make it to the finals and win it all,'' Mourier said. "I'm so proud of my team. We've come so far.
"It's been a great four years with these girls and I wished it wouldn't end. To be with these girls ... we played middle school ball together. Just coming along on this journey is great. We've been determined since the beginning of the season. We had the drive we needed.''
Shreve finished with 15 kills, eight blocks and one ace while Mourier chipped in six kills and one ace and senior setter Sydney Downey had 34 assists. Wittekind pitched in seven kills and two blocks and senior Casey Rollins turned in five kills, four blocks and five digs. Mourier, Shreve and Downey earned all-tournament honors.
Musselman senior Corisha Smith tallied 12 kills while sophomore Taylor Lord, who has been playing with a partial tear of her calf muscle since the sectional tournament, added 10 kills and sophomore setter Kaitlin Ferretti had 25 assists. All three players were all-tournament selections.
"We couldn't get anything going and every time we did [George Washington] would get a big block, kill or defensive dig,'' said Musselman coach Shawn Martz, whose team finished runner-up for the second year in a row.
"We certainly didn't play as well as we wanted to, but a lot of it had to do with the way [the Patriots] were playing. This is the best I've seen them. When we played them in the [Queen of the Hill] tournament we had quite a few aces on them. We just couldn't quite do that today. We really couldn't match up with the front row very well.''
Smith is upbeat about next year in spite of graduating nine seniors.
"Our JV did really well,'' said the GW coach. "They won every tournament but one that they played in. They're ready to go. We'll be back at it in June ready to get another one.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.