E.A. Sports Today

The journey begins …

Saks, Jacksonville among 8 County volleyball teams in action Friday in the North Super Regional

Jacksonville coach David Clark watches his team during the Calhoun County Tournament.

Jacksonville coach David Clark watches his team during the Calhoun County Tournament.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

They say if you’re going to be the best you have to beat the best and whether one agrees with the assessment or not the Saks volleyball team certainly gets to test that adage right out of the gate.

The Wildcats (29-15) face Danville, the top-ranked team in the most recognized prep volleyball poll in the state, in their first round match of the Class 4A North Super Regional in Huntsville Friday.

Danville must be strong if the Hawks (44-11) are ranked higher than Calhoun County power Jacksonville, which many believe is even stronger than its state championship team of a year ago. The third-ranked Golden Eagles (34-8) open their title defense with Haleyville at 12:45 p.m.

All eight Calhoun County teams that made the Super Regional are at the Von Braun Center. The other first-round matches featuring county teams are Oxford-Florence, Donoho-Shoals Christian, Alexandria-Boaz, Pleasant Valley-Sand Rock, Sacred Heart-Waterloo and Wellborn-Geraldine. Two wins guarantees a team a trip to Birmingham.

“I guess that’s just the luck of the draw,” Saks coach Randy Law said. “We’re excited for the opportunity to be able to go; a lot of teams don’t have that opportunity.

“We’re thinking positive and we think we’ve got a chance. We hope the right team shows up.”

The Wildcats, ranked eighth in 4A, bounced back from a mid-season slump to win 14 of 16 before falling to Jacksonville in the area final. In those two losses, they had Oxford down 24-21 and couldn’t close, and fell to Southside-Gadsden in the final of Fort Payne’s tournament after beating the Panthers earlier in the event.

“We did some switching around and started playing pretty good,” Law said. “We didn’t play well against Jacksonville (25-11, 25-13, 25-15).”

The Golden Eagles have that effect on a lot of teams. They won the Calhoun County Tournament without losing a set, beating teams from bigger classifications in the semis and finals, and did the same in the area tournament.

Still, even as the defending state champions and not losing to a Class 4A opponent this year, they have been passed in the poll by two teams that have moved up from 3A – Danville and Deshler.

Don’t think that doesn’t hurt.

“I think it’s a motivating factor for the kids,” Jacksonville coach David Clark said. “I wouldn’t mind them playing with a little chip on their shoulder and thinking they have something to prove to people. Still, I said to them you’re the defending 4A state champions and will be until somebody takes it away from us.

“Danville has had some good wins, Deshler has, too, but we kind of move in different circles; Deshler, they stay up in that area. It’s hard to make a comparison and contrast. I liken it to when football’s first polls come out. You can say so-and-so is 1-2-3, but until you play a few, you don’t really know.

“I don’t think we take a whole lot of stock in it. You’ve got to be ready Friday and the first thing in the morning Saturday or we’ll be done like other people. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to playing both of them at some time.”

The first chance would come in the finals or consolation match Saturday, but for now “all our focus” is on Haleyville.

“This is the best time of the year,” Clark said. “It’s always an interesting dynamic. If you don’t win the first two, you’re done. I think the kids are ready to respond to it.

“Anybody is going to have a decent to good team and you’ve got to show up and play. I don’t think we’re good enough to go out and say we’re Jacksonville and people get out of our way. For us it’s about Jacksonville and how we play.”

It’s the third straight year since returning to the program Law has gotten the Wildcats this far. Two years ago, their senior-laden squad played Winston County and had game-point three times and only won one. Last year, they were outplayed by Good Hope.

Danville is led by 6-foot-1 outside hitter Sydni Shelton, who has more than 500 kills this season and at least 14 in each of the Hawks’ last four matches.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Law said. “I just hope we step up and accept it.”

at Von Braun Center, Huntsville
Friday’s Matches

(Calhoun County teams only)

Saks vs. Danville, 10:15 a.m.
Oxford vs. Florence, 11:30 a.m.
Jacksonville vs. Haleyville, 12:45 p.m.
Donoho vs. Shoals Christian, 3 p.m.
Alexandria vs. Boaz, 4:15 p.m.
Pleasant Valley vs. Sand Rock, 4:15 p.m.
Sacred Heart vs. Waterloo, 5:30 p.m.
Wellborn vs. Geraldine, 6:45 p.m.


Saturday’s Matches
Jacksonville vs. Priceville-Hokes Bluff winner, 9 a.m.
Oxford vs. Hartselle-Homewood, 9 a.m.
Saks vs. Crossville-Westminster Christian winner, 10:30 a.m.
Sacred Heart vs. Decatur Heritage-South Lamar winner, noon
Wellborn vs. Westbrook Christian-Sylvania winner, noon
Alexandria vs. Lawrence County-Moody winner, 1:30 p.m.
Pleasant Valley vs. Plainview-Ashville winner, 1:30 p.m.
Donoho vs. Berry-Athens Christian winner, 1:30 p.m.

Oxford and Alexandria, playing in a match earlier this season, play at 11:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., respectively, Friday in the North Super Regional.

Oxford and Alexandria, playing in a match earlier this season, play at 11:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., respectively, Friday in the North Super Regional.

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