KIDWELL - Both Oak Glen and Tyler Consolidated had already clinched spots in Saturday's West Virginia Class AA Region One tournament. However, with the Section One title still on the line, neither was going to go down easy, and both fought to the end for the crown.
But when the two teams travel to Ritchie County High School this weekend, it will be the Golden Bears who will be representing Section One as champions.
Oak Glen capped an exciting, and very well played, four-game victory by overcoming an early nine-point deficit in the finale to defeat the Silver Knights, 25-20, 20-25, 25-17, 25-23 Thursday night at Tyler Consolidated High School.
"We were thrilled and excited just to know we were heading to the regional the last time we were here (Tuesday), but we wanted to be the top seed coming out of this region and we came down here and got it," Oak Glen coach Ethel Riser said.
But it didn't come easy.
Leading two games to one, the Bears found themselves in an early 11-2 hole in Game and facing the possibility of not only a fifth game, but the chance of having to play another three to five games in a winner-take-all scenario.
With that in mind, Oak Glen dug deep and began chipping away at the lead, eventually knotted the score at 23-23 on a Vanessa Hissam spike. Sydney Kell's kill off of Tayler Maxwell's service made it 24-23. Hissam then set off the celebration with another kill as the Golden Bears won the game, and the match.
"We got down nine points in that last game, but we continued to fight and we climbed back into it point after point," Riser said. "It really was anyone's game, and we could have went to the fifth game and then to another whole set.
"But I called time out and told the girls that wasn't what we wanted and they went out and got it.
"I think our blocking and digging started to wear them down and they began trying to roll the ball over the net instead of hitting it."
"But we came here and got what we were after. Hopefully we will be able to carry on through the regional and come out of there with another top seed."
For Tyler Consolidated Coach Richard Summers it was another in a long line of classic matchup with the Golden Bears, but possibly the last in the sectional tournament.
"I have the utmost respect for Coach Riser and her team and we have played some great tournament matches with them," Summers said. "But this may have been the last one.
"We are one of the smallest Class AA teams in the state and we are about 99 percent sure right now that we will be playing in Class A next year. We will still battle Oak Glen, just not in the sectional.
"But (Thursday) it was just a matter of two very good teams playing very hard and playing very good volleyball, and that may be about the best statement you can make for high school volleyball.
"They are a team that has battled some pretty good AAA teams to the wire, and we knew how good their defense was and that we could need three or four hits to break them, but we just didn't always get it.
"You know a lot of teams win the first night, get the regional berth and throw in the towel. But last year our girls fought and we beat Oak Glen on the final night and this year they did it to us.
"It is a good sign when a team does that, but this was just pretty high caliber volleyball with some very good players."
Game 1 set the stage, with Oak Glen overcoming an early deficit, and still trailing 18-14 before coming to life with a huge rally. The Bears cut the margin to three and then held serve for Morgan Poling, scoring the next nine points to take a 24-18 lead.
The Silver Knights managed the ensuing two points before Oak Glen put them away to take a 1-0 upper hand.
Oak Glen battled from behind again in the second game, coming from as many as five points back, but Summers' girls was prepared this time. After the Bears tied the game at 20-20, the hosts finished them off with five consecutive points.
Sami Jones held serve for the final four while Abby Atkinson had a pair of spikes and a kill during the run as the Knights made it a 1-1 affair.
For the second time in three days Oak Glen took the pivotal third game, setting the Golden Bears up for victory and the sectional crown. Riser's club never trailed after taking a 7-6 lead, and had the lead grow to as many as seven along the way.
Abby Tice recorded the final two points in service, including a game-winning ace that hit the net and rolled over to end it.
Tyler advanced to the championship round with a hard-fought, four-set victory over arch-rival Magnolia. The Blue Eagles actually won the opening game 25-21, before the Silver Knights rallied for 25-14, 25-20, 25-16 wins to punch its ticket to the regionals.
It looked as though Magnolia might rally in the fourth game, jumping to a quick 7-1 lead, and still knotted at 13-13 midway through. However, with the hosts up 15-14, a Allison Wable spike and six consecutive service points helped Tyler Consolidated pull away.