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Musselman rallies for thrilling five-set win over GW in Class AAA final

Musselman earned its seventh state championship in volleyball with a five-set win over George Washington. Photo by Greg Carey/WVMetroNews.com


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Having been swept by George Washington in the 2019 Class AAA title match, Musselman wanted nothing more than to exact revenge against the Patriots when the two elite programs met Saturday night in the final at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.

Despite its back being squarely against the wall throughout the fourth set, the top-seeded Applemen were able to do just that, rallying for a thrilling five-set victory over the Patriots (25-20, 19-25, 23-25, 26-24, 15-5).

The win gave MHS its seventh state championship and fifth since 2013 in a matchup that’s been featured four times among the last six AAA title games.

“They fight like crazy,” Musselman coach Shawn Martz said of his team. “We had to fight just to get into the tournament because of the COVID situation. These kids are tough as nails. We were down (seven points) in the fourth set and this is one of the better wins if not the best win in my 22 years of coaching volleyball.”

The Applemen (25-1) got off to a strong start and built leads of 10-4 and 18-10 in the first set before fending off a GW (23-4) rally to prevail by five points.

Although the Patriots held an early 8-3 lead in the second set, Musselman ran off six straight points — including five with Hannah Howard serving — to lead, 9-8.

However, that proved to be Musselman’s final lead of the second set, with GW getting consecutive kills from Molly Grimm and Faith Smith to pull ahead 14-10. The Patriots led by at least two points over the remainder of the set and pulled even with the 25-19 win.

GW battled back from an 18-14 deficit in the third set, using a 9-3 surge to take a 23-21 lead. The teams traded the next two points, before MHS got to within one only to see the Patriots take the 2-1 lead in the match with the 25-23 victory.

GW led throughout nearly all of the fourth set and held a 21-14 lead as the Patriots were on the brink of repeating as state champs. 

But the Applemen answered with four straight points that led to a Patriots timeout — though it did little to slow the MHS momentum.

Trailing 22-19, the Applemen drew to within two points and then scored twice with Abigail McCoy serving to pull even. 

Although the Patriots went back ahead at 23-22, Musselman got a pivotal block at the net from Keleigh Chrisman to take a 25-24 lead before sealing the set to force a decisive fifth and final game.

“We kind of eased off a little bit and thought we had it,” GW coach Missy Smith said. “Musselman is a good team and they’re not going away. They remember last year’s championship match. We didn’t close it out. We let up a little bit and when you open the door like that for a good team, that’s what’s going to happen.”

The momentum from rallying in the fourth set carried over into the fifth and Howard continued to assert herself, helping Musselman build a 6-2 lead.

“They carried the momentum from the fourth set into that fifth set,” Smith said, “and we weren’t ready for that.”

Out of a GW timeout, the Applemen kept at it and built the advantage to 9-2. The Patriots got back to within 10-5, but Musselman closed with the final five points to claim the title.

“It’s kind of a blur. We stopped making some of our own errors and started blocking a little better and playing better defense,” Martz said.

Howard led the way with 25 kills and 17 digs.

“Hannah really took over a little bit and refused to let this team lose,” Martz added.

Faith Ketterman added seven kills in the win and Caroline Shipley and Isabella Hutzler contributed 24 and 23 assists, respectively, for MHS.

Madigan Faircloth had a team-high 19 digs for the Applemen.

Nyla Birch led GW with 16 kills, while Grimm and Camryn Hughes totaled 13 and 12 digs, respectively.

Ella Hall had a team-best 25 assists in the loss, while Karli Edwards contributed 24 digs.

“When you have two of the best teams in the state in the final, you expect it to be a five set marathon match,” Smith said, “and it’s a representation of how good volleyball is in the state.”

Class AAA State Tournament Scores


No. 4 Morgantown defeats No. 5 Bridgeport, 3-1 (26-24, 17-25, 25-22, 25-15)

No. 3 Hedgesville defeats No. 6 Woodrow Wilson, 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-20)


No. 1 Musselman defeats No. 4 Morgantown, 3-1 (25-13, 25-15, 23-25, 25-18)

No. 2 George Washington defeats No. 3 Hedgesville, 3-2 (22-25, 15-25, 25-18, 25-14, 15-10)