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The Press Box: Girl Power

By Randy Rutherford - Sports Writer | Sep 8, 2021

Ladies account for 40% of all participants in sports, but somehow get a dismal 4% of sports media coverage. This fact is like a stone tossed into the muddy Middle Island Creek. Both produce ripples, and for female athletes everywhere it means they lose out on sponsors, fans and eventually potential income.

This inadequate coverage by the media also means there is a shortage of role models for girls in sports. And you know the saying, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it!” Another sad fact, girls drop out of sports two times faster than boys according to Women’s Sports Foundation. Not for lack of skill or passion, but because women’s sports programs are notoriously underfunded and under promoted.

I’ll admit I am guilty. I do a better job covering sports for which I have more knowledge and comfort. I am a product of my personal history and my generation which is deeply rooted in football and baseball. But that doesn’t mean this old dog isn’t willing or able to learn a few new tricks. I am hopeful to do a better job of representing the girl power we have in the Tyler and Wetzel County area. So be patient with me, please. I am reaching out and investigating. And as a “Pop” to one future female athlete and another on the way, it’s time I got “coached up” by some of the local skippers of our female teams.

Outstanding female athletes have a history in our area. The first professional female basketball player in WV, Martha Evans, graduated from Sistersville High School in 1952 while never playing on a high school team as no female basketball team sport was offered at the time. Instead Martha participated in independent basketball with a girl’s team from the area. They played full court men’s rules and played teams all up and down the valley from Huntington to Wheeling.

Her chance at the big time came via an exhibition game played by the “The Hazel Walker Arkansas Travelers,” a professional ladies team, performing at the SHS gym in 1951. After the exhibition game, Coach Walker gave Martha a try out. Walker told Martha to let her know when she graduated.

Martha graduated in 1952 but never reached out to Coach Walker, but that didn’t stop the coach from seeking her out. She invited Martha and her mom to fly to Little Rock where she accepted an offer to become a member of the “The Arkansas Travelers,” and the first pro female player from the state. She was 17 years old and earned $425 a month, which was great money in 1952.

This amazing history lesson is a great launch pad for a closer look at some of our current female fall sport teams and their talent.

TCHS Girls Soccer: The TCHS Soccer Lady Knights are coached by Merritt Grimes who is beginning her third season at the helm. She is assisted by Megan Campbell. I reached out to Merritt explaining my hope to get a little more press for the team. Coach Grimes was quick to get back to me which I always appreciate. Thanks, Merritt.

The team consists of 23 players this year and Lindy Landis serves as the team manager. I asked Merritt about the strength of her squad.

“Losing only three seniors last year, we have a lot of returning players. Our starting lineup is full of starters from last year, just in different positions,” emphasized the coach. The team looks for Trinity Kanz, Jordyn Potoczny, Anna Vollmer, Jordan Ebert, and Mallory Westbrook, Romona Rice, Hannah Shreves, Emma Grimes, Stevie Adams, and Madison Shreves all to play key roles in their success. “Briann Templeton will remain our goalie with 4 years experience in goal.”

Captains for the team are Briann Templeton, Hannah Shreves, and Jordyn Potoczny. Coach Grimes also mentioned their 7 returning seniors this year who have become strong leaders on the team. The coach grinned, “We lovingly call them ‘The Chiefs.'”

The team’s objective this year is to become competitive with teams they have struggled with in the past. Coach Grimes explains, “Our region and our schedule are tough. We want to win games and have fun in the process.”

The Lady Knights are off to a good start. Currently they are 1-0-1. On Tuesday this week they defeated Ravenswood 7-0 at home and tied Madona earlier. Not only are these ladies strong athletes, they are concerned citizens sponsoring their first “Diabetes Awareness” game by raising $649 for Camp Kno-Koma, a non-profit organization that provides summer camping experience for children with diabetes in and around the state of WV. Good work ladies! Keep it going.

Wildcat Girls Cross Country

Rounding out the column this week, I had the chance to talk to a member of the Paden City Girls Cross Country team. Lexi Mathis is a freshman and has surprisingly found that cross country is a sport that relaxes her. Lexi explains, “I joined my 8th grade year thinking it was a sport to get me in shape for basketball, but it turned out to be a sport I fell in love with. I would have to say cross country is my favorite sport that I play. No matter what place you finish, everyone supports you, and that’s what I love most about the sport.”Lexi also plays basketball and softball, and has plans to run track this upcoming spring. “My goal for all sports is to always do your best and to never give up no matter what,” emphasized the freshman.

Tyler Consolidated, Paden City and Magnolia have been dominant in girls volleyball over the past several years, and that tradition continues going into this season. Many of the athletes from all three schools have gone on to make all state and compete for state championship titles. The girls have probably made more appearances at state championship tournaments than many of the boys teams, regardless of the sport, and it occasionally gets overlooked. As I mentioned earlier in this article, I am committed to doing a better job of covering our area female athletes. Who knows? One day I may be writing about a star female player known as a powerhouse throughout the state with the last name Rutherford!