E.A. Sports Today

Eagles at it again

Jacksonville volleyball coach David Clark (red shirt) gathers his team during its final practice before opening the season Thursday night.

Jacksonville volleyball coach David Clark (red shirt) gathers his team during its final practice before opening the season Thursday night.

Jacksonville opens the defense of its third state volleyball title at home Thursday

By Anna Elders
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville’s volleyball team is coming off the thrill of winning a state championship and those memories are driving the Lady Eagles this season.

They open their title defense Thursday at home against Boaz in a match that might feel more like something at the end of the season than the beginning.

Both teams are ranked in the Top 10 of their respective classifications in the preseason al.com volleyball poll – Jacksonville No. 2 in 4A, Boaz No. 8 in 5A — and the Lady Eagles can’t wait to get it started.

“(This year) means everything to me, especially since I am a senior,” Blessing Dunn said. “I am making my last memories with the best team I have ever played with. … We know the feeling of making it that far so we have the drive and fight to make it happen again.”

The Lady Eagles went into last year’s finals against Guntersville the underdog. They lost the first two games of the match, but rallied to win the final three – including a thrilling 34-32 shootout to force the tiebreaker – for their third championship.

Dunn, Tamaria Mays and setter Ashley Clingan are among six players who return from that 38-14 team. Dunn had 11 kills and three blocks in the championship match, while Mays had 10 kills and five blocks.

Coach David Clark said the team has been affected by the five players it graduated, particularly tournament MVP Katie Neisler, but he likes the athleticism of his roster. His only concern is the players staying focused throughout the entire match, but there’s confidence throughout the team and the plan is to make it to state again this year.

“I am very confident in my team,” Mays said. “We have a lot of hard workers on our side and that definitely helps. If we play the game we are capable of playing we should go far. I know for us seniors it is very important to leave it all on the court because this is it, but our younger girls really are dedicated and want to go far to win, too.”

It all starts Thursday night.

“It’s only the beginning; we still have a long way to go,” Clingan said. “Our team is already good, but we will be even better by the end of the season.”

Jacksonville isn’t the only Calhoun County team in the al.com preseason volleyball poll. Donoho is No. 1 in Class 1A, Alexandria is No. 9 in Class 5A and Oxford in No. 5 in Class 6A.



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