‘All together, we will’: Rivalry teams come together after game, show unity ahead of school system merger

The rival teams will join as one after the two school systems merge in 2023-2024

'Volleyball players for Alleghany and Covington schools took part in a “passing of the ball ceremony” Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. It was the last volleyball match between the two schools. Next year, students will attend a combined high school at Alleghany. CHS won Thursday’s volleyball match in straight sets.' (Credit: Alleghany Highlands Public Schools, AHPS) (WSLS)

COVINGTON, Va. – As the school year progresses, the end of an era for the Alleghany Mountaineers and the Covington Cougars continues to creep closer.

While the rivalry is deep-rooted for many in the area after years of Mountie versus Cougar faceoffs, it was clear to see the unity between the two rival teams on Thursday night, according to a release by the Alleghany Highlands Public Schools.

Since this will be the last year for the rivalry games to commence, Bryan Stinespring, the Alleghany Highlands Public Schools Activities Director, wanted to do something special, the release said.

Before the game, the release said that Stinespring got in contact with the coaches of the teams to set the plan in motion.

“Coach Bradley and I were approached by AD Stinespring about the possibility of doing some type of commemorative gesture towards the uniting of the volleyball teams next year. So we put our heads together yesterday and came up with the idea of the seniors passing the volleyballs from each school down to the juniors on each team,” Mary Tyree, Cougar Volleyball Head Coach, said.

This year marks Coach Tyree’s thirteenth season with the Cougars, according to the release.

“The highlight of the ceremony was when the student sections chanted ‘Alleghany Cougars!’” Coach Tyree said.

The plan unfolded after the well-played game ended, and Hannah Bradley, Mountaineer Volleyball Head Coach, spoke to the energy and emotion in the air that night.

“The match was played at CHS in a gym that was packed with exuberant fans. In that atmosphere, emotions could have easily gotten the best of the players, pushing sportsmanship aside,” Coach Bradley said. “The sportsmanship shown between both teams Thursday was incredible. I never doubted it wouldn’t be. But with the roaring crowd, it would have been easy for the sportsmanship to crumble. It was truly an amazing experience. Although the time has come for the rivalry to be over, we can unite as a positive front and move forward as a single system.”

And the players echoed that statement.

Lauren Bragg, a senior captain of the Cougar volleyball team, said that one of her favorite moments of that night was getting to pass a ball to one of her best friends on the Mountaineer team.

“Playing my last volleyball game against Alleghany was a little heartbreaking, but having the honor to pass the ball over to one of my best friends, Abbi Riley, made me realize how much of an honor it was to be a part of this amazing team, and I can’t wait to see what they do in the coming years,” Bragg said.

Alleghany seniors Ariana Bolden, Kalin Rice, Alyssa Taylor, and Lindsay Wrenn served as this year’s Mountaineers captains.

“Both sides are competitive and always have been, but at the end of the game, you could see the love and support between the two teams come together. Hearing the student sections yell ‘Alleghany Cougars’ was an awesome experience,” said Rice, a player that’s been in the Mounties volleyball program for five years.

This year, Alleghany Highlands Public Schools said they are stressing sportsmanship as part of a Virginia High School League initiative.

The release said that the VHSL wants good sportsmanship, fair play, honesty, and respect for others to be evident in all levels of competition.

“The CHS and AHS volleyball teams displayed tremendous sportsmanship and unity. As we know, this was the last volleyball contest between AHS and CHS. The teams, coaches, students, and fans all reflected the ideals surrounding sportsmanship and unity. For all of us, it was an impactful moment,” said Stinespring.

Stinespring also said that the atmosphere at the game was touching.

“The students began a chant of ‘Alleghany Cougars! Alleghany Cougars!’ The fans joined in. They stood, they cheered, they smiled, and yes, there were tears. Perhaps they unknowingly reminded us all of our ‘why,’” Stinespring said. “As I told CHS over the intercom Friday morning, I have been blessed to have been a part of many awesome settings, but none more impactful than Thursday night. It started as an idea, and our young people, our students, took it and used it to remind us that ‘all together, we will!”

You can watch the rival teams come together in unity below around the one-hour mark.

Weekend Roundup With Rome On The Road - Varsity Volleyball: CHS v. AHS at The Cougar Den

Posted by Jerome G. Johnson Jr. on Thursday, September 1, 2022

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Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.