By Rusty Udy | The Register-Herald
LEWISBURG – Fans who have witnessed the Greenbrier East volleyball team for the first time over the last four years are usually struck with the same question.
Who is No. 16?
Thanks to a high velocity jump-serve the likes of which are rarely seen in the high school ranks, Chylyn Pate — No. 16 — has left fans in awe and opposing defenders in disarray over her career.
However, her serving prowess is just part of the package that Pate brought to the floor each night for the Spartans.
“The first thing you are going to see is her serve, obviously, and well deserved. She has probably the best serve, maybe ever, in the state of West Virginia, in my opinion,” Greenbrier East head volleyball coach Matt Sauvage said. “But I tell people, don’t just watch her serve, watch her game. Watch her passing skills and her setting, which is unmatched. There is not a ball that she cannot set and it is going to be almost perfect every time. The rest of her game is what sets her apart.”
Although the 2020 season was shortened due to Covid-19 restrictions, Pate still recorded 262 aces and 748 assists over 91 sets to lead her team to a 34-4 record.
Thanks to her stellar play this year, Pate has been named the West Virginia High School Volleyball Player of the Year as chosen by the W.Va. Sports Writers Association.
“Chylyn has been one of the top players in the state for the last couple years,” Sauvage said. “For her to earn such an honor is well deserved and I was extremely excited for her. To see a player that has worked so hard get excited like that, it was worth it all.”
As is the case with many great athletes, volleyball started for Pate at an early age.
“I started playing volleyball in third grade. I had played soccer and basketball, but I had never touched a volleyball before,” Pate recalled. “They hand out the papers for volleyball on the second day of school. I came home and told my mom that I wanted to play volleyball. She said that was great and asked when the tryouts were scheduled. I told her tomorrow.”
“We went to the store and we got a beach ball, blew it up and passed it in the backyard. We hit it all night long,” Pate went on to say. “My mom was so nervous for tryouts, but I made the team and I fell in love with it.”
The booming serve that she is most recognized for came along in eighth grade when a suggestion from her club volleyball coach set her in the right direction.
That person was Patty Bryant, who had previously been a highly successful coach at Independence High School.
“My serve would go out a lot with a flat foot serve. (Patty) told me I needed to try this (jump) serve. At first it was not good,” Pate said, laughing. “It just took tons and tons of reps. There were so many little things that I had to perfect before I started doing it consistently.”
Over her four-year varsity career, Pate has recorded 824 aces which, along with her 2020 season total of 262, ranks her second nationally in both categories, according to the National Federation of High School Associations.
“When you watch her serve, you see there is something special there,” Sauvage said. “But she also has the drive and the work ethic. That is what sets her apart. She will do whatever it takes. Her competitiveness is almost unmatched.”
That drive and work ethic were put to test her freshman year when Sauvage asked Pate to play a totally different position.
“I had never played as a defensive specialist until my freshman year. It was hard and we both really didn’t know if it was the right decision,” Pate admitted. “Halfway into that season, a light bulb, as Matt calls it, came on and I could read the floor so much better. It helped my volleyball IQ so much.”
Over the final three years of her high school career, Pate recorded 2,766 assists, the most in Greenbrier East history.
The 2020 Volleyball Player of the Year race was one of the closest in Mountain State history, with Pate edging out Hedgesville junior Skylar Yates and Bridgeport senior Shea Hefner who finished second and third, respectively.
Yates recorded 395 kills this season and had a .389 hitting percentage.
“She has been the backbone of our team all year,” Hedgesville head coach Joy Vandine said after her team’s quarterfinal state tournament win. “She steps up when she needs to and lets the other kids shine when they can. She has really been our leader.”
Hefner, who has been a stalwart for Bridgeport all four years, recorded 389 kills and 330 digs to go along with 65 aces.
“Shea has been a six-rotation player for us since her freshman year,” Bridgeport head coach Ali Burton said. “Shea plays a huge role in our front row and is the glue that holds our serve-receive and defense together in the back row. She is a leader on and off the court.”