CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An impressive state debut, even with an early exit.
The fifth-seeded Point Pleasant volleyball team played in its first-ever state tournament match on Friday morning at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, with the Lady Knights taking the opening game, but eventually falling to defending champion and fourth-seeded Bridgeport by a 3-1 tally in the Class AA quarterfinal.
Point Pleasant (33-4-2) — winner of 25 straight matches before ending the year with back-to-back losses — took its first lead of the morning at 4-3 in the opening game. The Lady Indians (35-16-3) tied it up at four, five and six, but couldn’t regain the edge, as the Lady Knights took the first by a 25-17 tally.
After a trio of early ties, Point Pleasant took its only lead of the second game at 13-12. Bridgeport claimed the next three markers and then stretched its lead to as high as seven points, at 22-15. The Lady Knights scored seven in a row to tie it up, but then surrendered three of the next four markers, as BHS evened the match at 1-1 with a 25-23 win.
PPHS led initially in the third game, but Bridgeport was in front at 5-4 and didn’t look back on its way to the 25-16 victory, moving ahead 2-1 in the match.
Following a pair of lead changes early in the fourth game, the Lady Indians pushed their advantage to eight points, at 11-3. The Lady Knights cut their deficit in half with a 10-to-6 run, but never got closer, as Bridgeport sealed the 3-1 win with a 25-20 triumph.
Following the match, fifth-year Point Pleasant head coach Marla Cottrill noted that while the Lady Knights started out on the right foot, a few too many mistakes let the match slip away.
“The first game, we were on,” Cottrill said. “The second game we got behind, we came back, there were just little things. Finishing blocks, making sure we were moving our feet to get to the digs, just little things, but little things accumulate and that’s what loses a match for you.”
The Lady Knights were led by Olivia Dotson and Baylee Rickard with nine points and an ace apiece. Haley Milhoan marked seven points and one ace in the setback, Katelyn Smith came up with five points, while Brooke Warner ended with four. Addy Cottrill and Peyton Jordan finished with two service points apiece for PPHS, with two aces by Cottrill.
Tristan Wilson led the Lady Knights’ net attack with 13 kills and three blocks. Cottrill was next with nine kills and one block, followed by Milhoan with four kills and two blocks. Warner had two kills and one block for PPHS, while Rickard added one kill and two blocks. Dotson earned one kill, one block and a team-best 30 assists for Point Pleasant, while Jordan came up with a match-best 16 digs.
For Bridgeport, Peyton Merica led the way with 12 points and three aces, followed by Violet Sickles with 11 points and four aces. Cambria Freeman had eight points and two aces in the win, Shea Hefner added seven points and one ace, Jacey Lucas collected five points and one ace, while Julia Griffith picked up a pair of points.
Hefner led BHS at the net and on defense, posting two dozen kills and 11 digs. Merica had 12 kills and three blocks for the Lady Indians, Addison Phillips chipped in with four kills, while Lucas earned three kills and a match-best 37 assists.
Coach Cottrill acknowledged that nerves might have played a part in her team’s performance, but was happy that the Lady Knights achieved their goal for the season.
“We were excited to be here, we may have been a little nervous coming in, it’s a big forum, three courts going side-by-side, but it was a privilege to be here,” Cottrill said. “That was our season goal, our goal was to make it to states. Then when we won sectionals, it became ‘we can come in and win states’, but you have to get through that first match before you can move on. It’s sad for my five seniors, but we have the rest of the team coming back, we just have to work hard and move on.”
The five seniors Point Pleasant will lose to graduation include Haley Milhoan, Olivia Dotson, Peyton Jordan, Remington Durst and Cheyenne Durst.
Milhoan noted that playing at the state tournament will rank among her favorite high school experiences.
“It means so much,” Milhoan said. “I’ve known all of these girls my whole life, so to start something as meaningful as this, and to play it with them, I know it means just as much to them, it means the world to me. It’s been one of my greatest experiences in high school for sure. It sucks that it’s over now, but all of the memories, I know they’ll last a lifetime.”
Dotson — the school’s all-time leader in assists, surpassing 1,000 for her career earlier this season — is also thankful for the memories while setting a new standard for PPHS volleyball.
“Being part of this team has been awesome, making memories and setting the bar high,” Dotson said. “Making the states for the very first time, it’s a great experience with the team, we’ve put effort and hard work in.”
Remington Durst also talked about the Lady Knights’ hard work to make history, and wants the program to keep improving.
“It means a whole lot, we’ve worked really hard for it throughout the year,” Remington Durst said. “For the first time, coming my senior year with my best friends, it means a whole lot. I’m hoping the girls who are younger than us come and set it higher.”
Cheyenne Durst also hopes the team continues to progress in the future, and reflected on how far they’ve come.
“It’s honestly amazing,” said Cheyenne Durst. “I remember when we couldn’t even go far in the postseason, and now to come all this way. Hopefully with the upcoming group, they can definitely place at states next year.”
Jordan — the all-time school-record holder in digs for a career, also reaching quadruple digits earlier this fall — acknowledged the special bond the team has and how far the program has come in just a few years.
“It was a really great experience, playing with these girls for the last five years,” Jordan said. “Coming from where we were freshman year, barely getting out of section, and senior year, ending at state, it’s a great experience and great memories made. I couldn’t ask for a better team to be surrounded by. I can’t wait to see the team next year, and how much we’ve grown.”
The Lady Knights will have a chance to return eight players from this team, as they look to follow up on their winningest season in school history and their first-ever state appearence.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.