CHARLESTON — Shady Springs senior volleyball star Meg Williams doesn’t know Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. At least his line from the song “TRUCK” was published more than 50 years ago.
However, one of the most famous lines in the iconic song best sums up Williams’ high school volleyball career: “Lately, I’ve been reminded of what a long, strange journey it’s been.”
Williams has gone through the Gambit in the last four years from freshman phenom to a challenging position change a year later, only to see Year 3 bring the frustration of struggling through an early-season knee injury.
Despite its ups and downs, the future Concord Mountain Lion persisted in earning every state’s first-team honors every four years and led their team to four consecutive Class AA championship games.
Adding to those accomplishments, Williams has now received the highest honor at Mountain State when she was named the West Virginia Sports Writers Association’s 2022 Volleyball Player of the Year.
“Really? Wow! That’s definitely surprising, but very exciting. I really wasn’t expecting that. That’s really nice,” said Williams somewhat unprepared. “I definitely didn’t think my career would go like this, but all my teammates have helped make me better. It really helped me reach this point in my career. I couldn’t have done it without the support I had.”
There are many words that can be used to describe the Tigers’ mighty slugger, however “Coupling” and “Go-to Player” are the two that stand out.
Early in her high school career, Williams thrived in the pressure cooker and refused to shy away from the big moments when her team needed her most.
Her first notable performance came in the semifinals of the state tournament of her debut season.
In a five-set barn burner and Class AA perennial favorite Philip Barbour, Williams consistently dropped bombs to send the Tigers to the state championship game.
It was the time her coach and mother Kelly Williams knew there was something special about their daughter.
“Meg came out and had an amazing first year, but seeing her at the state tournament that year was the turning point.” said Kelly Williams. “I could really see the potential she had in her. It was an eye opener to see how dedicated she was to winning. She was fearless in these games and she was willing to do anything to win. That’s when I realized that if she kept working, she would make it.”
According to Meg Williams, it was also her fondest memory of high school volleyball.
“I remember the rush and excitement that came from that game. We actually did it in that moment”, Meg Williams remembered. “I remember wanting to win so badly that I had to do whatever it took to help us win.”
After a freshman season in which she racked up 437 kills, the young standout was asked to switch positions from underdog to middle.
“She wasn’t happy with that decision at first. I remember playing Philip Barbour for the first time that year at the start of the regular season. We had thrown it up and she was in the middle.” Coach Williams remembered. “She came to me afterwards and said it wasn’t going to work. That’s something I don’t think I can do. I told her we had no choice, this had to happen and she would be better.
Williams brushed off early frustrations and became a pivotal cog in Shady’s 2020 state championship run.
“She accepted this challenge calmly and really worked to get better in the middle. She became more explosive and worked on her blocks.” said Coach Williams. “She was determined to get better, and she did.”
The biggest mental challenge of her career came a year later when Meg Williams went down in a preseason game with a knee injury and missed much of the regular season.
“I think that was the hardest part for her. She came home and said the girls didn’t need her because they were still going to win. She had a lull in her confidence because the girls were very successful without Meg.” said Kelly Williams. “It was something that she had to deal with mentally because she didn’t think they needed her as much as she thought they needed her.”
Like the other challenges she faced in her career, Meg Williams overcame early self-doubt. She used it as fuel to get even better and was named first-team double-A captain in 2021.
“She’s just someone who doesn’t give up easily. Meg has goals that she writes down and she strives to achieve those goals. She is willing to put in the work to get there. Meg came back from it and kept the attitude that I just need to keep getting better and get down to earth.
This year, Shady Spring faced more challenges as the conclusion took a toll on the team in 2021, including the loss of All-State setter Kelsie Dangerfield, who now plays at Fairmont State.
Meg Williams ended her career with another outstanding season, recording 550 kills. She also served 64 aces, totaling 136 blocks, along with 390 digs and 430 serve receptions.
The 131 sets played that year included 62 sets against Class AAA foes, while 70 sets came against later state tournament teams.
Throughout her career, Shady Spring has always played in the state’s top competition.
“I think programs that are trying to get better and make sure everyone gets better, not just one person, really go out there and play as many tough teams as possible. There’s a lot to be said for a challenging schedule and trying not only to bring the girls to a climax, but to bring them to their full potential.” said Coach Williams. “It gives the girls perspective on what they need to do to get better and reach their goals. You have to get stronger and faster to win these games. They were always up for the challenge”
Meg Williams surpassed the 1,000 milestone in three career categories with 1,541 kills, 1,123 digs and 1,101 serve receives.
“There have been challenges along the way, but I don’t think I would be where I am today without those challenges.” said Meg Williams.
Sometimes the best way to understand a player’s true nature is to look at the opposing teams they’ve battled over the years.
Class AAA Woodrow Wilson has had numerous clashes with Shady Spring over the past four seasons. Flying Eagles head coach Bre Rhodes compared Williams to former Beckley star Bryce Knapp.
Knapp is Rhodes’ sister and was the 2018 West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year. She is currently a standout defensive end at Fairmont State University and was a first-team pick on the All-Mountain East Conference team this year.
“I always knew that (Meg) would be a strong player if we played her. She reminds me of my sister. Meg is an all round player who knows the game and can read the course.” said Rhodes. “She will definitely be an asset to the team she plays with at the next level.”