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Applemen, Eagles chasing dreams in Charleston

November 10, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

Everything Musselman's volleyball team has achieved this season - The Herald-Mail's top ranking all season, the No. 3 ranking in West Virginia Class AAA by the West Virginia Regional Sports Network, sectional and regional titles gained with two of its four victories this season over the state's fourth-ranked Class AAA team in Hedgesville, and Oak Glen and Potomac Valley Conference tournament titles - has all been little more than a warmup for the Applemen.

They've had one goal all season - a state championship.

"They know what's on the line," Musselman coach Shawn Martz said. "It's a big deal for us."

It's all come down to today and, should they reach the state championship match, Saturday for Musselman. The Applemen are in Charleston chasing their dream, and it starts around 10 a.m. against seventh-ranked Parkersburg South.

Oh, and Hedgesville - runner-up in the sectional and regional tournaments - hasn't given up on the dream, either. The Eagles are in Charleston as well, though they're a longshot to make a deep run. They play second-ranked Parkersburg around 3 p.m. today.

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The semifinals are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., with the final Saturday at noon.

Defending Class AAA champion George Washington is undefeated and holds the top ranking coming in. Fifth-ranked Woodrow Wilson, Preston and East Fairmont are the other four teams in the eight-team tournament.

Musselman has pool-play victories over Parkersburg South and Woodrow Wilson from the Capital Classic Tournament on Sept. 30 and beat Parkersburg in the final of the Oak Glen Tournament on Sept. 2. Parkersburg beat the Applemen in the final of the Martinsburg Invitational on Oct. 14, and George Washington beat Musselman at the Capital Classic.

Two things have the Applemen feeling good entering states.

One is the return of Alyse Custer (3.13 kills per game) from what was thought to have been a season-ending fracture of her foot suffered at the Martinsburg Invitational. Custer played in the sweep of Hedgesville in Saturday's Region II final.

"It was big mentally just to get her back out there," Martz said. "She's been so big for our program, for her to end her career on the court is great for her and our program."

The other is the two sweeps of the Eagles last week, including Thursday's Section 1 final.

"I think that's big," Martz said. "I think their confidence is at a season-high right now."

Led by the setting and serving of Chelsea Wheaton (8.67 assists per game, 113 total aces) Musselman has a strong group of front-row attackers, including Custer, Megan Holmes (2.93 kills per game), Stephanie Wood (2.11 kills, 0.96 blocks) and Katie Kees (1.74 kills, 0.99 blocks). Danielle Felicio (2.65 digs) anchors the back row.

"Right now, I told the girls I want them just to focus on Parkersburg South," Martz said. "We just want to get past that first round, and then we'll get mentally ready for the next match."

Hedgesville fell to Parkersburg in the semifinals of the Martinsburg Invitational, but the Eagles did defeat both Woodrow Wilson and Parkersburg South in winning the Woodrow Wilson Tournament title on Sept. 2. They also finished second in the Thomas Johnson Tournament on Oct. 21, defeating previously unbeaten TJ in the semifinals.

Hedgesville is led by Lindsay Hadley (3.69 kills, 2.84 digs) and Emily Kisner (3.09 kills, 2.96 digs), with Katie Rude (1.95 kills) and Katie Sheehan (1.73 kills) providing attacking depth. Virginia Rogus (9.87 assists) runs the offense.

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