WINFIELD, W.Va. — The third time was a charm. The fourth time was even better.
The Point Pleasant volleyball team secured the program’s first-ever appearance in the regional tournament Tuesday night following wins over third-seeded Nitro and second-seeded Wayne in a pair of Class AA Region 4, Section 1 postseason contests at Winfield High School in Putnam County.
The fourth-seeded Lady Knights (17-10) — who are in their ninth year of existence as a varsity sport — secured the program’s third consecutive season with a postseason win following a 25-10, 25-21, 25-19 decision over Nitro in the opening match.
PPHS followed that up by rallying back from a 2-1 match deficit against Wayne for a thrilling 25-14, 11-25, 24-26, 25-21, 17-15 victory in the semifinal match.
Point Pleasant — which doubled its all-time tournament win total from two to four on Tuesday night — advances to the Region 4, Section 1 championship match at WHS on Wednesday night, where the Red and Black will face top-seeded Winfield at 6 p.m.
Under the new guidelines for the 2016 WVSSAC tournament, the two finalists from each sectional tournament advance to regional play. The Lady Generals have also ended Point’s postseasons in each of the last two years.
The Lady Knights managed to shake off a match point in that decisive fifth game against the Lady Pioneers, then rallied to break a pair of ties before scoring consecutive points to secure their place in school history.
Second-year PPHS coach Marla Cottrill noted afterwards that this group was well-deserving of this historic moment, mainly because of their continued effort to improve.
And in sharing a smile, she also couldn’t help but feel that a lot of hard work had finally paid off.
“This is hard to put into words, but it is awesome for the program and for these girls,” Cottrill said. “We didn’t have the best finish to the regular season losing something like six of seven, but regular season records don’t matter this time of year. It was do or die time, and the girls knew they had to win two matches to keep playing — and that’s what they found a way to do.
“We still have a tough test in Winfield waiting for us in the sectional final, but it is nice to know going in that we still have another match in our first regional tournament. The girls are excited about the upcoming opportunities ahead.”
The Lady Knights started the evening with a relatively easy victory over Nitro, the same NHS squad that Point Pleasant defeated last fall in the opening round of the Class AAA postseason.
PPHS trailed 1-0 in Game 1, but then rallied with eight of the next nine points before cruising to a 15-point win and a 1-0 match edge.
Nitro again led 1-0 in Game 2, and Point Pleasant again answered with a dozen of the next 20 points to secure a small 12-9 lead.
The Lady Wildcats responded with consecutive points to close to within a point at 12-11, but PPHS reeled off 13 of the final 23 points to wrap up the four-point win and a 2-0 match advantage.
Nitro also led 2-0 in Game 3, but the Lady Knights retaliated with a 15-8 surge and never looked back en route to the six-point win and a straight-game triumph.
Michaela Cottrill led Point Pleasant with 11 service points and three aces, followed by Olivia Dotson with eight points and Gracie Cottrill with seven points.
Lanea Cochran, Liuza Da Costa and Brenna Dotson also had five service points apiece, with Cochran also adding three aces.
Gracie Cottrill led PPHS with five kills and Da Costa was next with four kills. Cochran, Brenna Dotson and Michaela Cottrill each had three kills, with Cochran and Brenna Dotson also chipping in a block each.
Anna Welch paced Nitro with six service points, followed by Kayla Gunnoe and Danielle Matheny with three points apiece. Haley Ireland, Baylee Gordon and Trinity McDonald also had two points each for the Lady Cats.
The night cap with Wayne proved to be anything but boring, although Point Pleasant did lead wire-to-wire in Game 1 before claiming an 11-point win to take a 1-0 match edge.
The Lady Knights led 3-0 in Game 2, but the Lady Pioneers rallied to tie things at four before reeling off 17 of the next 21 points for a commanding 21-8 lead. WHS closed things with a small 4-3 run to knot the match up at one apiece.
PPHS stormed out to early leads of 7-2 and 10-4 in Game 3, but Wayne answered with a 17-11 run to knot things up at 21-all.
WHS scored the next three points, but Point answered with three straight points to again knot things up at 24. Wayne scored the final two points and secured a 2-1 match lead in the process.
There were four ties and five lead changes in Game 4, and both squads led by as many as five points in the contest. Wayne jumped out to an early 9-4 cushion, but Point Pleasant answered with a 14-4 surge to take an 18-13 edge.
The Lady Pioneers scored eight of the final 15 points, but PPHS claimed a four-point win and tied the match at two-all.
The decisive fifth game was close, as in neither team led by more than two points while battling through 11 ties and a dozen lead changes.
Wayne held a 14-13 lead in the race to 15, but the Lady Knights rallied with consecutive points to secure a 15-14 edge.
WHS tied things at 15, but Point Pleasant broke serve and then added a service point from Olivia Dotson to wrap up the two-point win and a 3-2 match triumph.
Cochran led the PPHS service attack with 14 points and four aces, followed by Gracie Cottrill with 11 points. Da Costa and Olivia Dotson were next with seven points apiece, while Michaela Cottrill chipped in five points.
Peyton Jordan added four service points and Brenna Dotson also contributed three points to the victory.
Da Costa led the net attack with nine kills, followed by Brenna Dotson with six kills and Cochran with five kills. Both Cochran and Brenna Dotson also had two blocks apiece.
Michaela Cottrill and Olivia Dotson also had three kills each for the Lady Knights.
Whitney Sansom paced Wayne with 15 points, followed by Maddie Wilcox with nine points. Katelyn Cassidy and Lakyn Adkins were next with eight points each, while Rileigh Parsons and Aerial Adkins respectively chipped in six and four points.
Point Pleasant’s first-ever tournament win in volleyball came in 2014 against Saint Albans.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.