The last time the West Virginia State volleyball team took part in the Mountain East Conference championship tournament was in 2013.
The Yellow Jackets were seeded #9 and defeated #8 Urbana 3-1 before losing 3-0 the next day to eventual champion Wheeling Jesuit.
In 2014 the league cut the championship field to the top eight teams in the final standings and WVSU would not qualify again — until now.
After finishing the regular season in fifth place the Yellow Jackets face #4 West Liberty at 5 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals of the MEC Tournament at Wheeling Jesuit. The winner will likely face the nationally ranked Cardinals in Friday’s last match which is set for 7:30 p.m.
From 2014 through 2016 WVSU did not even challenge for a spot in the tournament field finishing with conference records of 5-11, 4-12, and 3-13.
Current Yellow Jacket coach Kris Kern took over in 2017 and came agonizingly close to leading the program back into the event. But three straight losses to end the season left the Jackets tied for eighth and losing the tie-breaker as they went 14-16 overall and 6-10 in MEC play.
A year of experience and another recruiting class later and Kern has WVSU comfortably back in the tournament and on the brink of becoming an actual contender for the first time since 2008.
“We eclipsed the goals we set for this team,” Kern said. “So we can certainly go into the tournament with no pressure and see how far we can take this thing.”
The Yellow Jackets finished the regular season with a 25-10 overall mark and 10-6 league record. They have won five in a row.
WVSU dropped a hard fought five-setter to West Liberty in Institute back on October 13. The scores were 20-25, 25-21, 20-25, 25-19, and 15-10 in the Saturday afternoon match that followed a loss to Wheeling Jesuit the night before.
The Yellow Jackets enter the tournament holding opponents to a league low .132 hitting percentage and are second to Wheeling Jesuit in hitting at .217.
Sophomore Tabi Pontious leads the Jackets in assists with 10.06 per set, second in the MEC and is a threat to score on her own serve with 38 aces this season.
If you cannot make it to the matches you can follow the action right here.