Resiliant Williamsport Triumphs in MPSSAA 2A Volleyball State Championship
After a disheartening 3-0 loss to Smithsburg on Oct. 10, Williamsport's volleyball head coach Karen Moyer knew her team needed to find a way to pull together and refocus.
The Wildcats had entered the 2016 season with big hopes. Williamsport had a large amount of talent returning from a 2015 campaign which saw the team reach the MPSSAA 2A West regional final.
Despite those expectations, Williamsport was just 5-4 after losing the game to Smithsburg and with a tough trip to Boonsboro as the team's next contest, Moyer knew something needed to change with the Wildcats.
"Between the Smithsburg game and the Boonsboro game the girls identified positive affirmations and quotes that became our team creed," Moyer said. "This creed promoted resiliency, trust, and reaffirmed our talent, potential and common goals."
The new creed did wonders for the Wildcats against Boonsboro, which won that match up 3-1 after receiving a complete team performance. It didn't just effect the team that night either- Williamsport would go on to win 10 of its final 11 games, including the MPSSAA 2A state championship.
A well-rounded team with a deep pool of talent, the Wildcats received contributions from all over the court this season. Middle hitter Devon Groesbeck led the team in blocks with 83 and also got involved with the offense, contributing 148 kills. Outside hitter Keara Lewis led the team with 210 kills, which included a season best 23 in the state semifinals against Calvert. Fellow outside hitter Brynn Lewis also had a big year with 155 kills.
Setter Kaitlin Murphy led the team with 315 assists, while fellow setter Britney Malphurs had 270 assists and 31 aces. Williamsport's libero Alyssa Shoemaker had a team high 218 digs, while Samantha Baker, the team's defensive specialist, contributed 144 digs. Middle hitter Alyssa Barkdoll (73 kills, 51 blocks), right side hitter Hayley Kendle (57 kills, 25 blocks) and right side/middle hitter Alexis Schlotterbeck (47 digs, 38 blocks) rounds out the group.
"The team was fortunate to have many players with great talent," Moyer said. "Everyone contributed and played a role."
While the team's obvious talent played a big role in becoming state champions, it was Williamsport's toughness which carried it across the finish line in the state final.
In the state championship, Williamsport lined up against Rising Sun, which had won the title in 2015 and reached the finals in 2014. The Wildcats manged to jump out to an early advantage by winning the first two sets, before Rising Sun came roaring back. The Tigers won a marathon third set 31-29, in which Williamsport came within one point of winning the state title four times. Rising Sun then took the fourth set 25-18 and had all the momentum as the fifth set was set to start.
After dropping the fourth set, the Williamsport huddle focused on falling back what had gotten the team to this point.
"We identified the areas we needed to fix and fell back on our ability to overcome adversity and to be resilient. After overcoming so many struggles during the regular season, coming into the state final, the girls wanted it so bad and they believed that we could recover after losing sets three and four," Moyer said. "They were determined to give one hundred percent, leave it all on the court and that is just what they did."
Williamsport managed to pull together to win the final set 15-11. When the final point was registered, Moyer said it was a victorious and joyful moment that few on the team would forget.
Since winning, Williamsport has done a good job of celebrating its new state champions. The team received a fire truck escort driving back from the game on Saturday that went through the entire town and was enjoyed by friends, family and supporters of the Wildcats in addition to the players themselves. In general, the support and excitement surrounding the group has been surreal for the team.
"Saturday was so special and prideful for this group of girls and coaching staff," Moyer said. "Memories that will last a life time were made."
|November 22nd, 2016||By: Wick Eisenberg|