King of the Hill

Fairmont State volleyball coach Larry Hill (left) celebrates his 500th win with student assistant Keri Blank (middle) and Micah Bell after defeating Ohio Valley Wednesday.

Larry Hill really doesn’t remember his first win as Fairmont State University’s volleyball coach.

He’ll have a hard time, however, forgetting his 500th.

Hill’s Falcons rallied from a 2-1 deficit to record a hardfought 3-2 win over visiting Ohio Valley here Wednesday evening in front of a raucous crowd led by the Falcons’ football team at the Joe Retton Arena.

As noted the victory gave Hill, who is in his 23rd season of coaching volleyball at the school, his 500th career win.

“I can’t even remember my first win, but I’m pretty certain it wasn’t as memorable as this one coming in five-game fashion,” said Hill. “I certainly won’t forget this one.”

FSU posted a 30-28, 19-30, 23-30, 30-26, 17-15 victory over the Fighting Scots last night.

“At the end of game three I told the kids ‘We can make this a very memorable evening or we can make it very unmemorable. What do you want to do?’ They said ‘We want to make it memorable’ so I told them we had to win it in five and that we absolutely had to win game four,” said Hill. “They went out and found a way to get it done in game four. Game five was back and forth and it didn’t look good for us when we were down 14-12, but Staci (Skinner) came up with a couple of big kills for us to get us even at 14 and we rallied from there and won 17-15.

“It’s a wonderful feeling for me. It really is. We’re a very young team and even though we don’t have the best overall record we’ve played some tough competition. What we’ve learned during the first part of this season is to have heart, have fight, not to quit and not to give up. Tonight you saw that. This win is a testament to the kids. There’s no quit in them and they proved that with this victory.”

The Falcons trailed 25-23 in game four, but managed to knot the score at 25. At that point Ohio Valley argued that FSU had used the wrong serving rotation and after a lengthy discussion by the game officials the Falcons were penalized one point making it 25-24 in favor of the Fighting Scots. It was there, according to FSU sophomore middle hitter Micah Bell, that the tide turned in favor of her team.

“We really wanted to get this win for coach Hill because he works so hard every day,” said Bell. “He’s our biggest fan. Even though he yells at us and gets on us pretty hard at times, we all know he cares a lot about us and wants to make us better. It was important to all of us to get this win for him tonight.

“The turning point in game four for us was when there was some confusion and they ended up taking a point away from us. That got us pumped up and mad and after that our whole attitude changed. It was like we weren’t going to be denied.”

FSU proceded to outscore OVU 6-1 to win game four and then rallied again in the fifth and deciding game from a 14-12 deficit by outscoring the Fighting Scots, 5-1 to seal the victory.

Skinner, a senior, led Fairmont with 20 kills. Bell added 16 kills and 19 digs, while Ashley Conger, a true freshman, chipped in 39 assists and 14 digs. FSU’s liberio, true freshman Brittany Tallhamer, added a team-high 31 digs.

Shortly after Wednesday’s win, Hill received a congratulatory phone call from his first student assistant John Harbert, who still resides in Fairmont, but had to miss last night’s game because he was in Columbus, Ohio on business.

“John played football here for us when I was an assistant for Dave Ritchie in the early 1980s and he had finished up his eligibility, but was still in school when I took over the volleyball program here in the fall of 1984,” said Hill. “One day we were talking in the gym and I told him I was going to coach volleyball and he volunteered to assist me or help me out in any way he could that season because he had nothing else to do.

“He was with me for my first win and still comes to a lot of our matches. Tonight he was out of town on business so he sent his sister, who lives in Parkersburg, to the game and told her to congratulate me for him if I got the win. She did that and then he called on her cell phone so I got to talk to him and receive congratulations from him over the phone. You know that’s pretty special to me. That’s the kind of thing that makes it all worthwhile.”

FSU, which improved to 4-1 in the West Virginia Conference with the win and to 4-13 overall, returns to action Tuesday evening when it hosts Glenville State at 7 p.m. at the Joe Retton Arena.

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