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Prep volleyball: Seniors look to lead Patriots to state title

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The George Washington volleyball team is in a familiar position this weekend.

The Patriots have made it to the State Tournament in seven of the eight years coached by Missy Smith, and once again find themselves in the field again this season as well.

George Washington (44-10-3) opens play in the quarterfinals at the Charleston Civic Center at 1:30 p.m. today, where it should be favored against Parkersburg South (20-15).

That's because the Patriots boast one of the most experienced teams in any of the three classifications with nine seniors.

However, Smith isn't taking anyone lightly, and indicated this could be one of the most balanced tournaments in some time.

"Any of the eight could win it and it wouldn't be a shock," Smith said. "The State Tournament should be really interesting, that's for sure. All the teams have been beating each other up all year long."

Smith, though, knows she has a team seeing to win its first state title since 2006 when GW won back-to-back championships.

"Nine of our 12 varsity players are seniors," Smith said. "We are getting down to the wire and the intensity is starting to pick up. They know they are getting down to their last games and don't have any more left. Coming out of regionals, we are playing our best volleyball of the year."

GW lost a heartbreaker to eventual champion Spring Valley last season in the semifinals, giving the Patriots more motivation to go further this time around.

"Everyone on this year's team was on the team last year," Smith said. "They remember how last year felt, and they are hoping they don't have that feeling again. They know this is the end and they are playing all-out."

Of the nine seniors, three of them are program record-setting players. Middle hitter Hannah Shreve, a two-time All-State selection and West Virginia University recruit, set the school record for 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 digs leader. All three are co-captains.

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

There's another area team with high aspirations of going far in the State Tournament this weekend in Herbert Hoover.

The Huskies enter the Class AA field as one of the favorites. Hoover opens against Phillip Barbour (30-9) in the quarterfinals at the Civic Center at 1:30 p.m. today.

Hoover hopes to take the next step after getting a game off of and pushing eventual champion Oak Glen to the brink in the first round last season.

"We aren't just shooting for getting back here for the State Tournament, we raised the goal this year to win it," Hoover Coach Anita King said. "We feel talent-wise and skill-wise, we have a team that can compete with everyone else."

Hoover features one of the top players in the Class AA field in junior middle hitter Hannah King, who was named to the All-Tournament team at the State Tournament last season.


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