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High school volleyball: Behind seniors, Patriots set on state title

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A key component that every coach desires is solid senior leadership.

George Washington Coach Missy Smith has more than enough with her senior class this year, making her a happy and fortunate volleyball coach.

The Patriots have nine seniors on a roster of 11 players, and feature several program record holders on the team.

Middle hitter Hannah Shreve, a two-time All-State selection and West Virginia University recruit, has set the school record for both kills and blocks last year as a junior.

Also for the Patriots, setter Sydney Downey holds the school's all-time assists and aces record while libero Sarah Arthur is the all-time digs leader. All three are co-captains.

The other nine seniors include hitters Jordan Wittekind, Lexi Mourier, Casey Rollins, Eva Roberts and Leslie Gilmore, along with defensive specialist Brooke Deardorff.

"They are an amazing group of girls," Smith said. "They have been playing together for three years here, and it's been the same team. It's been fun for me seeing them grow and come together."

The seniors had one final chance to play on their home court, and as they have throughout most of their careers, came out on the winning side with a 25-9, 25-18, 25-11 with over Cabell Midland on Tuesday night.

It was a bittersweet moment for the seniors.

"I was a little jittery and it was of course sad, but it was great and worked out really well." Shreve said. "It's been a great experience. I'm going to be sad to see it over. It's really important to us. We are all one big family."

"It was good, but it's surreal that it's over," Downey said. "We have been the same team since sophomore year, moving up altogether. It's been so fun being with all these girls. It's going to be so hard once this season is over leaving them."

With all the individual and team accomplishments the GW seniors have had throughout the last three seasons, one thing has eluded them: a state title.

They hope to change that, though, in their last opportunity.

"It would mean a lot to us," Shreve said. "We have been working towards it for a long time. We hope to finish it out this season. It would be the best moment of my life so far."

"It would mean everything to us," Downey said. "That's all we want right now. It's all we are after. It would be the best memory by far."

Smith certainly believes they have a great chance to end their record-setting careers with a championship.

"It's what they have worked for their four years here," Smith said. "For them to go out on top would be a tremendous accomplishment. If the ball bounces our way, we have as good a shot as anybody."

Smith doesn't want to imagine life without her nine seniors leaving the program to graduation after the season.

"They have been tremendous," Smith said. "I'm going to be sad when it's all over and to see them go. They are a special group. With these girls, I have been watching them since sixth grade at John Adams. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago and they should be this old already."


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