CHARLESTON - With a nice mixture of seniors and underclassmen and a first-year coach looking to spark a program, John Marshall finally broke through and advanced to its first West Virginia State Volleyball Tournament.
The Monarchs will take the Charleston Civic Center court at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Class AAA Tournament.
Oak Glen will be a part of the Class AA field, also beginning at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
''They are really excited and pumped to be going to Charleston,'' John Marshall coach Stacy Shive said. ''They are very happy to be the first team, but they are definitely not content on just being there.
''They might be new to the field, but they are going down to win it all.''
John Marshall punched its ticket in the regional tournament with a semifinal victory against East Fairmont. The Monarchs lost to Robert C. Byrd in the title game, but the top two teams advance.
To even get there was a surprise to most, but not to Shive or her team.
The Monarchs didn't qualify for the OVAC Tournament and entered the sectional tournament as the fourth seed after beating Wheeling Park in a play-in game.
Led by 14 kills from Jenna Stephens and 13 from Alexis Montes, John Marshall knocked off University in the title game after beating top seed Morgantown early in the day.
''I hate to use a cliche and say we were the underdog, but we never really felt that way,'' Shive said. ''We knew what we were capable of. When we played Park, we played hard. When we had our benefit game, we played hard. Some nights we chose to play hard, other nights we didn't even come close.
''We felt our record and our seeding didn't reflect who we were. When we play to our potential, we are a No. 1 seed.''
John Marshall will likely have to play to that potential against Spring Valley, a team that has made coming to Charleston a ritual and has the 2009 plaque in its trophy case.
''I know they have two big hitters and they pass well, from what I've been told,'' Shive said. ''The stats I've read and the stories I've read, they seem to be a lot like us - powerful middle hitters, great blockers, and good passers.''
The powerful middle hitters are seniors Montes, a four-year letterwinner, and Stephens. Allie Howard and Megan Garcia are the other seniors.
Sophomore Sara Tennant is the libero. Outside hitters are Caitlyn Malloy, Lauren Taylor, Taylor Gilbert and Emily Winters. Joining Garcia as a defensive specialist is Carrie Clutter and Emily Fox.
Brittany Anderson is the right hitter.
''We have four seniors that are very experienced and the rest are pretty young,'' Shive said. ''That is also how we play. Sometimes we are experienced, sometimes we can really play like a team still learning.
''We are going to need that experience and play like we need to this week.''
As for Oak Glen, the state volleyball tournament is nothing to new.
The Golden Bears are regulars in Charleston, having won the state championship three times, the most recent coming in 2008.
Coach Ethel Riser's group consists of just one senior in Tayler Maxwell. Libero Abby Tice is a junior along with Reagan Headley, Abby Tice, Sydney Kell, Kaitlyn Smith, and Lacee Porter.
Karly Wiley, Jessica Stivason, Morgan Poling, and Vanessa Hissam round out the Golden Bears.
Much like John Marshall, Oak Glen was the sectional champion but lost in the regional final to Ritchie County and Player of the Year candidate Allison Delancey.
Oak Glen will play Herbert Hoover in the first round.