With only one West Virginian on the WVU volleyball roster, the Mountaineers aren’t exactly West Virginia born. However, coach Jill Kramer has taken it upon herself to make sure that every player is at least a little West Virginia-bred by the time she graduates. This year Kramer took her team on a preseason training trip to experience some of the interesting things the Mountain State has to offer, including the state fair, zip lining and a coal mine.
“This year’s training trip was an awesome experience for our team. Some of us were pushed out of our comfort zones as we got to experience some things that most of us had never done before,” said senior Evyn McCoy
. “The zip lining and coal mining that we did provided great opportunities for our team to learn things about ourselves and each other that have helped us become even closer as a team.”
The squad hit the road Saturday afternoon, arriving at the Resort at Glade Springs in Daniels – about three hours southwest of Morgantown – that evening. Sharing two cottages, the team got a good night’s rest before an early morning practice at Greenbrier East High. After Sunday’s practice, the Mountaineers headed over to the West Virginia State Fair in Lewisburg where they were able to interact with fans by signing autographs and leading some children through some volleyball drills.
“It was really cool getting to meet so many West Virginia natives that want to learn about volleyball and support us,” said sophomore Brittany Sample
, who hails from Lewisville, Texas. “We know that no matter what they will always be our biggest fans.”
After another practice and pool workout on Monday morning, the team headed back to the resort to wash up and grab some food before heading out on that afternoon’s adventure. In the early afternoon the Mountaineers departed for nearby Fayetteville where they spent the afternoon in the tree tops at the Gravity New River Gorge Zip Lines.
Splitting into two groups, the squad tackled various levels of zip lines. First up was a quick instructional lesson on braking, self-rescuing and aerodynamics that led into a pair of warm-up trips down “bunny lines” about 500 feet in length. The Mountaineers then moved on to an 1,800 foot-long line that crossed over the bowl of the mountain, providing the first real test of courage. The next two lines were about the same length, but were about 200 feet off the ground and enabled the players to hit speeds of 50 miles per hour while zipping across the trees. The final ride brought out everyone’s competitive spirit as the team broke into pairs and raced side-by-side down the Adrena-Line, a 3,100-foot long trip across the mountain tops.
|Photo by WVU Athletic Communications
There were various reactions to the zip lines, as some members of the team, like strength and conditioning coach Beth Byron and graduate assistant Will Cornell, were seasoned pros with experience. Others, like freshman Morgan Montgomery
, checked an item off their bucket list, while a few, such as fellow freshman Paoulina Jeliazkova
, overcame fears in crossing the treetops. At the end of the day, though, everyone agreed it was an exhilarating and exciting experience.
“It was honestly incredible. For the most part, it was everyone’s first time on a zip line so we got to bond over this new experience together help rally some teammates to conquer their fears,” said junior Nikki Attea
. “We really got to see all the beauty the state of West Virginia has to offer, so we’re really thankful we had the opportunity to do this on our training trip.”
After grabbing some wings at Smokey’s on the Gorge, the group departed for Glade Springs to rest up for another early morning the next day. This time they headed northwest towards Charleston, where they would spend the day touring a working coal mine. West Virginia is second only to Wyoming in coal production, so the tour gave the Mountaineers a chance to get a glimpse of a major part of the state’s industry. The workers at Coal River Mining, many of whom are WVU fans, were incredibly welcoming and excited to have the team tour their workplace. After an hour of safety instructions and gearing up with boots, coveralls, SCSR devices (self-contained self-rescue), helmets and goggles, the team was ready to go. Again splitting into two groups, leaders Chris and Steven drove the players one mile underground on a mantrip before the squad disembarked and walked another mile farther into the mine. The team got the opportunity to see the miners doing daily duties that ranged from transporting coal on conveyer belts to reinforcing the tunnel roofs. Some of the players got to search for genuine coal on the walls of the mine and even took some home as a souvenir.
Following a lunch break, the team loaded into a pair of vans to tour a surface mine on the property. In addition to posing with massive bulldozers and seeing coal in a different setting, the squad was able to learn from the employees what steps had been taken to repair the land after the area had been thoroughly mined.
“I thought it was great to see what this state is built on,” said sophomore Jordan Anderson
, who comes from Flower Mound, Texas. “I have a whole new appreciation for coal mines and was honored they took the time to show us what they do.”
After a long day of touring the mine, the team headed into Charleston to clean up at the local YWCA before a fundraising event hosted by the Mountaineer Athletic Club at the Charleston Marriott. In this setting, the team was able to interact with fans and supporters. Kramer, McCoy and Charleston native Hannah Shreve
addressed the crowd, covering a variety of topics ranging from the move to the Big 12 to the team’s trip through the state.
“We were privileged to be a part of a volleyball banquet in Charleston,” said McCoy. “We had an amazing time bonding both as a team and with some of the biggest supporters of our program. Overall, we learned a lot about each other and the state of West Virginia. The trip has truly helped our chemistry both on and off the court.”
Following the reception, the team headed back up I-79 to Morgantown. Though it may not have been a trip of rest and relaxation, the Mountaineers agreed it was time well spent to prep for the season as the team was able to quickly bond with each other throughout the various practices and activities.
“I think the trip definitely helped me get closer to the team,” said freshman Gianna Gotterba
. “I was able to room with teammates I’ve never stayed with before. Each night, we would stay up and talk about random things to learn about each other. The zip line and the coal mine were fun and interesting experiences that we all got to take part in as a team.”
The team will look to carry that chemistry and cohesiveness into the regular season, which kicks off August 29 when the Mountaineers play host to BYU as part of the Gold & Blue Player’s Challenge at WVU Coliseum at 7 p.m.