SISSONVILLE, Ohio — There’s a first time for everything.
The Point Pleasant volleyball team secured the program’s first-ever sectional championship on Wednesday night after posting wins over Nitro and Winfield in the Class AA Region IV, Section 1 tournament held at Sissonville High School.
The top seeded Lady Knights (32-2-2) claimed the school’s second regional berth in four years with a 27-25, 25-16, 25-14 victory over Nitro in the winner’s bracket final, then defeated Winfield 20-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-23 in the championship match to wrap up a historic evening in Kanawha County.
Point Pleasant — which started playing volleyball as a varsity sport in the fall of 2008 — advanced to regionals as a sectional runner-up back in 2016, but the Red and White had never come away with a Section 1 trophy before now.
More importantly, the Lady Knights enter the Region IV championship semifinals as the top seed in the Section 1 draw — meaning they will face the Section 2 runner-up in the opening round of the single elimination tournament.
Point Pleasant will face Chapmanville in the semifinal round, while Winfield takes on Section 2 champion Scott in the other semifinal. The Region IV tournament is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday at Man High School.
About every single seasonal record in school history has been shattered this fall, including being the first squad to win 30 matches in a year.
With trophy in hand, fifth year PPHS coach Marla Cottrill believes there has never been a finer moment for this program … and there is still more looming on the horizon.
“It is the pinnacle for the program, but I don’t really know what else to say. We started this season with some questions, but we knew we had some talented players to work with and some quality seniors leading the way,” Cottrill said. “We got a few matches into the season and realized we had some special … and it’s just turned into a dream come true.
“This has been 12 years in the making since the school started the varsity volleyball program, and we had some seasons where we didn’t win a lot of matches. Three years ago, we reached regionals for the first time. We’ve set school records for wins three straight years, and this is the first time we ever hit 30 wins. Now we have this first sectional title and another chance at earning our first state appearance. It’s a really good night for our girls and our program … and we still have more matches to play.”
Nitro (26-19-4) jumped out to quick leads of 2-0, 4-1 and 13-10 in the opening game, then gradually worked its way out to a 24-22 advantage.
The Lady Knights countered with three consecutive points before losing serve for a 25-all tie, but the hosts broke serve and then scored on a Katelynn Smith serve that wrapped up the minimal 2-point win for a 1-0 match lead.
Point Pleasant never trailed in Game 2 and overcame an 8-6 deficit in Game 3 by reeling off 17 of the final 25 points en route to a 3-0 match triumph that secured a regional trip.
Olivia Dotson led the PPHS service attack with 13 points, followed by Smith and Haley Milhoan with nine points apiece. Addy Cottrill was next with seven points, while Peyton Jordan and Brooke Warner respectively chipped in five points and one point.
Cottrill led the hosts with four service aces, with Dotson and Smith each providing three aces. Milhoan and Warner respectively added two and one as well.
Tristan Wilson led the net attack with 15 kills, followed by Cottrill with 11 kills and Dotson with five kills. Milhoan also had a team-best three blocks.
Dotson dished out a team-high 28 assists and also made eight digs. Jordan led PPHS with a dozen digs.
Winfield (36-15-3) defeated Nitro in five games to advance to the final, and the Lady Generals carried that momentum into Game 1 after breaking away from a 2-all tie en route to a 5-point win and a 1-0 match edge.
The Lady Knights, however, countered by breaking away from a 10-all tie in Game 2 on their way to a 5-point win while tying the match at one apiece.
Game 3 proved to be the pivotal moment in the match as both teams battled through 13 ties and nine lead changes to get to the final outcome.
WHS held a quartet of 3-point leads, the last of which came at 21-18. Point Pleasant scored five consecutive points before the Green and White battled back to knot things up at 23-all.
The Lady Knights broke serve for a 24-23 edge, then Dotson served up the game-winning point that allowed PPHS to claim a 2-1 match cushion with the minimal 2-point decision.
Point Pleasant never trailed in Game 4 and led by as much as 22-12, but the Lady Generals refused to go away quietly after whittling the lead down to 24-23. Point, however, broke serve to wrap up another 2-point win that resulted in the 3-1 championship triumph.
Jordan led the Lady Knights with 11 service points, followed by Smith with 10 points and Dotson with nine points. Milhoan was next with six points, while Cottrill and Warner each contributed four points to the winning cause.
Wilson and Cottrill led the net attack with 16 kills apiece, with Dotson adding nine kills to go along with a team-best 38 assists. Milhoan also led the hosts with two blocks.
PPHS made 100 digs in the win over Winfield, and five different players contributed at least double-digits digs. Jordan led that charge with 33 digs and Warner was next with 15 digs.
Two of the six seniors on this roster played significant minutes as freshmen on the 2016 club that reached regionals, so Saturday is still a relatively new experience for a lot of the Lady Knights.
Cottrill, however, believes that if the girls just keep doing what has worked this fall — good things will happen.
“Our goals have changed quite a bit since the season started, and we’ve found ways to accomplish most of the goals we’ve added over the course of the year,” Cottrill said. “Our next goal is reaching a state tournament, but we need to keep doing the things that have helped us get where we are. We are excited and looking forward to competing Saturday at regionals.”
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.