Wirt reigns again in Class A volleyball
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tyler Consolidated had been a thorn in Wirt County's side all season.
The Tigers eased the pain of two previous losses by taking the Class A state championship with a two-plus-hour, five-set victory over the Knights 20-25, 25-21, 25-15, 19-25 and 15-12 Saturday afternoon in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2 at the Charleston Civic Center.
Wirt, No. 2 in the latest RSNsports.com rankings, captured its ninth state title since 2000 and first since 2011. The Tigers knocked out Magnolia and Greater Beckley Christian in straight sets in Friday's opening round and semifinals, respectively.
Top-ranked Tyler Consolidated, the Class A state runner-up last year and AA champion in 2007, had beaten Wirt during the regular season and in the Little Kanawha Conference semifinals.
"I got a little nervous, but I knew my team could pull through it,'' said Wirt senior Brandy Bunch. "The first time we played [Tyler Consolidated] I don't know what happened. We were just not good. The second time we missed 20-some serves and that didn't help. This year we all pulled together.''
Wirt dropped the first set then won the next two in Saturday's title tilt. Tyler answered in the fourth set to stay alive, going on a 13-1 run to force a fifth and final set.
The Tigers took the lead for good at 12-11 in the last set on a hitting error by the Knights, who had four unforced miscues after taking an 11-9 advantage. Bunch closed out the victory with a kill on match point for a 15-12 win.
Bunch, senior Miriam Smith and junior Liz Adams were all-tournament selections for Wirt.
Wirt has had to overcome many obstacles the last couple of years. Sarah Hennen, an all-tournament player on the Tigers' 2011 state championship squad, died during her senior year in 2012. Wirt failed to make it out of sectional play that year.
"We had trouble when we lost Sarah,'' Bunch said. "It was a hard year. God does everything for a reason. It's been a good four years. It was more happiness as a senior.''
Tyler Consolidated senior Megan Carpenter and juniors Kerstyn Cline and Bridget Matthews were all-tournament picks.
"These girls weren't supposed to be here,'' said Tyler Consolidated coach Richard Summers, who had a serious bicycle accident this past summer with multiple injuries. "I was life flighted. I didn't even know if I was going to be here. These girls came to the house and picked me up.''
Other all-tournament selections were East Hardy senior Marilyn Cassell, Greater Beckley Christian sophomore Janalee Lehman and Magnolia senior Mallory Chapman. Greater Beckley Christian also won the sportsmanship award.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.