Clay Battelle, Local Sports, Sports

Clay-Battelle prepares for strong year for volleyball team

BLACKSVILLE — There’s a permanent smile on the face of Matt Wood these days.

The second-year Clay-Battelle volleyball coach has every reason to be grinning from ear-to-ear as his Cee-Bees return every player from a squad that went 18-15 last year and won the school’s first-ever sectional title.

“We are really excited about this year,” Wood, who teaches special education and social studies at the school, said. “We hated to see the season end last year. We felt like we were good enough to go on further.”

Clay-Battelle ran into Moorefield in the regional and lost in its bid to make the school’s first-ever state finals appearance.

However, that loss in regionals was also at the end of an exciting run for the Cee-Bees. After struggling at the beginning of the 2021 season, Wood led his team to a 10-3 finish.

“We kind of hit a funk,” Wood said. “We made a slight tweak and change to the lineup and then we just really caught fire.”

Part of the reason for that late surge was the elevated play of setter Kendal Saul and outside hitter Caitlynn Patterson.

Saul, who was the Mason-Dixon Conference player of the year last season, earned second-team all-state honors and returns as the playmaker for the Cee-Bees this season as a senior. Patterson, who was honorable mention all-state last year also returns for her senior year as a very athletic offensive force.

“We really had to step up as juniors last year because there weren’t any seniors on the team,” Saul said. “We had to learn leadership early and I think that helped us as we finished last season.”

Saul said she is optimistic for the 2022 season. She said she is hoping for a trip to Charleston for the state tournament and she said she is also looking for a repeat performance as the conference’s player of the year.

Joining Saul and Patterson in the lineup this year is Lydia Moore, a junior, who returns as an all-OVAC middle hitter while seniors McKenzie Wilson returns at middle hitter and Heaven Tennant returns as the starting libero.

Isabel LaPoe, a senior, and Elyse Moore, a junior, both return as setters for the Cee-Bees. Seniors Allison King, a defensive specialist and Hannah Hanlin, an outside hitter, also return with plenty of experience at the varsity level.

Hall did say that sophomores Bre Swaniger and Paxton King both saw some action for the varsity last season and will provide some much-needed depth this year.

With all that returning experience, the Cee-Bees are trending in the right direction. But Hall said this team cannot just show up and expect to win.

“We have to continue to play together as a team,” Hall said. “We have to continue to develop chemistry. We are working on our serving and trying to shore up our defense to help our back row, so they aren’t so taxed.”

In fact, the Cee-Bees are moving to more of a three-person back row this year with hopes that this will stop some of the balls that hit the floor last season.

While Clay-Battelle does not have a lot of height on the team, they do have some solid options when it comes to serving. Saul was second in the state for serving aces while Patterson was a 94 percent server.

“We don’t want to have the slow start to the season like we did last year,” Patterson said. “We need to realize that this is all we have left when it comes to high school volleyball and stay focused all season.”

The journey to a repeat sectional title, and possibly more, begins for the Cee-Bees on Aug. 25 when it travels to Tyler County for a quad match.

“We really tried to schedule some tough teams,” Wood said. “Our first goal is to win conference, something we haven’t done since 2015. Then we can focus on our other goals.”


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