Oak Glen Bears take regional volleyball crown

ELLENBORO – The machine that is the Oak Glen volleyball program was clicking on all cylinders here Saturday afternoon as the two-time defending Class AA state champion Golden Bears waltzed to the Region I crown by upending host Ritchie County 25-16, 25-15 and 25-14.

“They are just a good team,” said Rebel head coach Melanie Allender, whose Rebels have settled for consecutive state runner-up finishes to Oak Glen.

“I’m happy that we are going and at least made it this far, especially with a young team.”

Head coach Ethel Riser’s squad has a quartet of seniors and the trio of Morgan Poling, Vanessa Hissam and Carissa Williams each played a key role on Saturday.

During Oak Glen’s 25-12, 25-12, 25-15 semifinal win versus Ravenswood, Poling had 26 points, a dozen kills and six blocks. Hissam posted a match-high 17 kills and Williams registered a match-high 26 assists. Fellow Oak Glen 12th-grader Jessica Hutton added a trio of blocks.

“They might be up there, very easily could be,” replied coach Riser when asked if this was perhaps the best Oak Glen team she’s ever had. “They keep getting better day by day.”

Ritchie County, which eliminated Fairmont Senior in the other semifinal by scores of 25-13, 25-22 and 25-16 to punch its return ticket to Charleston, was led by Kenna DeLancey’s 11 kills in the finals setback to Oak Glen. Leah Kuhn added eight kills, Becca Sullivan has 27 assists and Jessie Bryson chipped in six points, three aces, four kills and as many digs.

In the regional final, the Rebels (24-22-1) never had a lead of more than three points in any set. The opening set was even at 10 before a Madison Juszczak kill gave the Golden Bears the lead for good. Jessica Stivason’s downed spike from an Emmy Delekta assist handed Oak Glen set point.

Vanessa Tallman’s dink kill kept the Rebels close in set two as the hosts only trailed 9-6. However, an ace by sophomore Kenzie Rosenlieb helped ignite a 15-3 run as Oak Glen continued to roll.

Consecutive service points from Janessa Adams, which included an ace, helped the Rebels tie the third set at six apiece. Back-to-back downed spikes by Juszczak and Alex Arnott was followed by a huge kill-block from Poling against a Tallman spike as those three points turned the tide in favor of Oak Glen. Stivason’s 10th and final kill accounted for match point.

Stivason added nine points, six digs and four blocks. Poling seven kills, seven blocks and three digs and Williams 15 assists. Hissam chipped in with nine kills, eight digs and seven points, Jusczcak eight kills, Delekta 11 points and 10 assists and Rosenliel seven points and five assists.

The six teams in the Class AA state championship bracket along with Oak Glen and Ritchie County are Region II’s Philip Barbour (champion) and Robert C. Byrd, Westside (champion) and Independence from Region III and Herbert Hoover (champion) and Clay County from Region IV.