For the past three years, Shady Spring has finished the season playing for the state volleyball championship.
When the season kicks off in September, the Tigers will once again be among the favorites to qualify for the Class AA crown.
Even though many have already signed up Shady Spring for the championship on Saturday, the road will not be easy to get back to the title match.
“We have a lot to work on,” Shady Spring head coach Kelly Williams said. “We have a very young team. We’ve lost three seniors and they’ve been starters for years, so we definitely have some holes to fill. We have a great freshman class and we have juniors and a few sophomores who will be good players.
“It will be a challenge this year,” continued Williams. “Losing Kelsie (first-team All-Stater) as a passer was huge. I hope we have some girls ready to step in and give this position a try. It won’t be easy and it will be a lot of work. We don’t take the league game for granted. We have to be ready for every aspect of the game. We know how tough it is and the competition is pulling for us too.
Like many teams in the state, Shady Spring is currently taking advantage of the WVSSAC-sanctioned three-week summer training window to kick off the season.
“Last week we just did some conditioning. This week we went to the gym because they were doing the floors at school (last week),” Williams said. “It’s the first time we’ve touched balls, but it looks promising. We’re a little rusty, but we’re just happy to be back and picking up the pace.
With so many new faces, it’s no surprise that the focus is on Williams’ daughters.
“Right now we’re doing a lot of team bonding. We dyed last week and we’re just trying to get them in and communicate with each other,” Williams said. “We want them to get to know each other, so when we come back in August it won’t be a meet and greet. We want to get past that and get ready to work.
The strength of Shady Spring teams over the years has been rooted in chemistry and communication.
“It might just be the teacher in me, but for me communication on the pitch is crucial. Even the best teams fail with communication at some point,” Williams said. “We try to instill This to the girls early. One person can’t win a game, it takes a team for sure. We learned that the easy and the hard way.
The chemistry side of the equation could experience some growing pains along the way.
“My goal is to be back in that league game, but we have to take it one day at a time and one game at a time this year. We’ll see how it goes,” Williams said. another reason we start with team bonding. These seniors have never played with these young girls. Some freshmen can see the college floor, so they have to learn to work together quickly.
Making the return to the title game even more difficult this year is the fact that multiple teams will be in contention for a championship chase.
Defending state champion Philip Barbour, Oak Glen, Herbert Hoover and Winfield are just a few returning strong teams.
“I feel like the girls are up for a challenge. They seem like they’re here to win and I hope it stays that way. We have different challenges than they’ve faced in the past,” said Williams said “The younger girls have had a great start to their future in volleyball so far. I don’t know if they realize these tournaments we play and the teams we play against, it’s not for everyone winning them is to give them that experience for high-pressure games later in the year.
Shady Spring will open the season on August 27 when it hosts a quad with Class AAA foes George Washington, Cabell Midland and Huntington.