E.A. Sports Today

Oxford sweeps county VB rivals

Yellow Jackets beat Donoho for second time in two days, Alexandria in prelude to County Tournament

Alexandria's Savannah Beck (9) and Kiley McMichael are poised to play a ball back across the net to Oxford Tuesday night.

Alexandria’s Savannah Beck (9) and Kiley McMichael are poised to play a ball back across the net to Oxford Tuesday night.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Not that it really needed any justification for the pick, but Oxford solidified its standing as the No. 1 seed in this weekend’s Calhoun County Volleyball Tournament by sweeping two of the other top seeds in regular-season tune-ups Tuesday night.

The Yellow Jackets swept Alexandria 25-23, 25-13 and Donoho by twin 25-15 scores. Alexandria then defeated Donoho, the top-ranked team in Class 1A, 26-24, 25-16 to complete the tri-match.

Over the last two days, Oxford has taken down seeds 3 (Alexandria), 5 (Saks) and 4 (Donoho) twice. The Jackets (27-6) had beaten Jacksonville, the No. 2 seed, earlier this season.

“It means we have a good shot at winning County, and we’re excited about it,” Oxford libero Alex Cheatwood said. “Coach (Wendy McKibbin) just told us in the group that this is our best games these past two days that we’ve played in the past two weeks; that means a lot. And beating them (Donoho) back-to-back, knowing that they want us, means a lot, too.”

The match with Donoho (15-13) was significant because the Jackets and Falcons are on the same side of the County Tournament bracket; they would meet in the semifinals.

While the end result was the same as it was in the tri-match at Saks the night before, this one came a tad easier for Oxford – in two games instead of three. The Jackets jumped out front 16-4 in the first game and pulled away from what became a tight one midway through the second game.

For McKibbin, scheduling the back-to-back matches against the top tournament seeds wasn’t about sending a message for the weekend as much a matter of playing good teams to stay sharp for the second half of the season.

“You’ve just got to play,” McKibbin said. “You can’t base on what you did the day before when you’re playing the same opponent the next day.

“The game of volleyball can change in 10 points. You saw the first game (against Alexandria) — we were up a few points, then all of a sudden they came back, they got the momentum, we were starting a little bit off path. So, the game can change.

“I’ve coached in this county for 18 years and there’s been crazy things that have happened on county tournaments in any sport. Everybody makes a big hype about it, it doesn’t matter if it’s the county or anything else, you’ve got to show up and play on that given day.”

Breanna Nolan had seven kills and four digs in the match with Donoho, 11 kills and 11 digs on the night. Morgan Whaley had 18 assists against the Falcons, 35 in the two matches. Cheatwood had eight digs, 26 in the two matches.

In the match with Alexandria, Oxford opened a 16-6 lead in the first game but the Valley Cubs rallied to gain a 23-all tie. But the Jackets scored the winning points on a service error and Makenzie Trantham’s soft-touch kill. The Jackets led wire-to-wire in the second game.

“I think Oxford has a really good team this year,” Alexandria coach Whitney Welch said. “Wendy has one of the better teams that she’s had in a long time. They’re older, they’re very scrappy. … Talent-wise, I think we’re there, but being ready, we’ve still got to work on that. There are some things that come with age that we’re still working on.”

Even with the split, Welch called the night “huge” for her team.

The Cubs (21-10) saw a big early lead in the first game with Donoho evaporate into game point for the Falcons before they rebounded to score the final four points for the win. They pulled away early in the second game and stayed in control to claim the match.

Kaitlyn Brown had 13 kills and three aces in the Donoho match. Savannah Beck had 13 assists, four digs and two kills. Taylor Ellison had 12 digs and Catelynn Howell had four kills. Beck had seven assists and four kills in the Oxford match.

“I think it was pretty significant,” Welch said. “It’s good to try to play the top part of the bracket close to the county tournament. We haven’t seen Saks, but we always try to bring the best competition in the county. That’s how you get better.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. To comment on this story, pitch a story idea or report volleyball results, contact him at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and follow him on Twitter @easportstoday1.

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