CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In any sport, when the time for the playoffs to begin comes around, some teams are just happy to be there and some teams know the toughest part of the season is still ahead of them.
Consider the George Washington volleyball team firmly a part of the latter.
The Patriots (41-10-3) entered Wednesday's Class AAA Region 3, Section 1 tournament at Capital High coming off a runner-up finish at the Mountain State Athletic Conference tournament and looking to make it one step closer to the state tournament.
After the first day of the two-day, double-elimination competition, GW is right where it wants to be.
"We played really well and we're trying to keep that momentum going," GW coach Missy Smith said. "It doesn't matter if you're the favorite this time of the year. When somebody's season is on the line, they're going all out and you better be, too."
The Patriots opened their playoff run against Riverside, which had to play an earlier game and defeated Ripley 25-16, 25-21, 25-7 to earn the right to play top-seeded GW.
The Warriors put up a fight, but like in so many other games this season for GW, seniors Hannah Shreve and Sydney Downey were just too much for the opposition to handle and the Patriots pulled away to win 25-15, 25-11, 25-5.
"When we get in rhythm, we're really a dangerous team," Smith said. "That's what we've got to do no matter what's happening on the other side or who the other team is, we've got to keep our rhythm because we can control that."
Shreve, a first-team Class AAA all-state selection from last year's state-tournament team, has committed to play at West Virginia University. Smith said there is talent at other schools around the state, but from her perspective there is not a player in West Virginia as good as Shreve this season.
"I don't think so," she said. "There are a lot of good players in the state, it's not like it's a weak year. I'm just glad I don't have to game plan against her and I've said that for four years. She is aggressive at the net, which makes my job easy. She just goes and gets it."
GW continued its business-like trip across town, topping Capital 25-10, 24-26, 25-7, 25-15 in the second game of the day for both schools. Smith said keeping the team focused and on an even keel is always important, but especially so this time of the year.
"We've tried to stress that," she said. "Just get out on the court and get wins. Keep the game moving and keep the season moving so we can get on to the next step."
The next step for the Patriots comes today when they play either Riverside, Capital or South Charleston in the championship game. Riverside and South Charleston were playing late Wednesday, with the winner of that game advancing to play Capital in an elimination game today. The winner of Capital against either South Charleston or Riverside will then move on to play George Washington and earn a spot in the regional tournament.
Reach Tom Bragg at tom.br...@wvgazette.com.