E.A. Sports Today

J’ville falls in final

Danville denies Golden Eagles second straight state title

Jacksonville coach David Clark consoles his team after it fell to Danville in the Class 4A state volleyball final Thursday. On the cover, the Golden Eagles watch the Hawks celebrate their first state championship.

Jacksonville coach David Clark consoles his team after it fell to Danville in the Class 4A state volleyball final Thursday. On the cover, the Golden Eagles watch the Hawks celebrate their first state championship.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM – Jacksonville’s dream of back-to-back state volleyball championships ended Thursday night when the Golden Eagles fell to top-ranked Danville 3-1 in the Class 4A title match at Birmingham’s CrossPlex.

The two teams played a spirited match in the super regionals last weekend in Huntsville – won by Danville in five — but this one wasn’t nearly as tight and had much bigger consequences.

The Hawks (51-11) won the first two games of the match 25-16, 25-18. It put the Golden Eagles in the same pickle they were in a last year when they rallied to beat Guntersville for the title, but this time there was no comeback.

Jacksonville (40-10) did win the third game 25-17 to spark hope of a repeat, but Danville pulled away from a tight Game 4 to close it out 25-17. It was the Hawks’ first state championship.

“I guess we didn’t come as prepared as we thought we would and we just kind of shut down at the end,” Golden Eagles senior Blessing Dunn said. “We tried to come back and it was a little bit too late. We still were playing with heart, but it was just a little too late for us to make a big difference.”

The Golden Eagles were in the building a long time. They arrived at mid-afternoon for a match that was scheduled to begin at 6, but with the intensity of all the other state finals before them – theirs was the last one of the night — they never got underway until 8:30 p.m.

They spent a lot of time trying to stay loose on an alternate court, but Jacksonville coach David Clark said that impact was negligible.

The Golden Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first game, but then Danville used the first of two six-point runs in the game to take the upper hand. The second gave it 22-12 lead.

The Hawks used a 12-1 run to open an 18-8 lead in the second game.

In the three games it won, Danville hit .324, .242 and .268, while Jacksonville was only .094, .050 and .104. The Golden Eagles had a .321 hitting percentage in the game they won, which prompted their fans in the crowd of 1,200 to start chanting “Just like last year.”

It wasn’t to be, however. Danville broke away from a close Game 4 with seven straight points to open a 19-11 lead. The Golden Eagles cut it back to 20-16, then the Hawks scored the next four to position themselves for the win.

“Last Saturday they hurt us a lot with their serve,” Jacksonville coach David Clark said. “I thought we did a little better with their serve, but they blocked much better today than they did Saturday. I felt like if we stayed in the system and stayed with our attacking we could have some success, but they dug a ton of balls and got touches on balls and sometimes it just goes that way.

“And then when they did pass it, it was to target and they could get it to their good player. They were a little better tonight than we were.”

That good player was tournament MVP Sydni Shelton. She had 18 kills and 19 digs in the championship match. All-tournament teammates Kellee Stiles and Charlee Anderson had 18 kills and 46 assists, respectively.

Dunn and Sierra Stone both made the all-tournament team for Jacksonville. Dunn had 26 kills and 21 digs in the championship match. Darrien Martin had 16 digs. Ashley Clingan had 33 assists.

“I thought maybe getting the game might have opened the door a little bit, but they (Danville) had a great answer and they responded like you have to do,” Clark said. “I thought if we could’ve got ahead in the fourth game and stayed ahead it would’ve been a big deal instead of chasing.

“But then we fell behind and ended up having to chase. We let Sydni get to the front too much there in the last game and she was awesome. I thought my kids played hard. I don’t know that we played all that well, but we played hard and that’s all I want them to do. I just think Danville was better tonight.”

Class 1A: Athens Bible (32-17) def. Meek (28-22), 3-1.
Class 2A: Addison (58-2) def. Providence Christian (58-2), 3-1.
Class 3A: Bayside Academy (44-9) def. Madison Academy (50-12), 3-2.
Class 4A: Danville (51-11) def. Jacksonville (40-10), 3-1.
Class 5A: St. Paul’s (38-13) def. Guntersville (37-20), 3-1.
Class 6A: John Carroll (40-8) def. Pelham (41-17), 3-0.
Class 7A: Mountain Brook (49-10) d. Hoover (38-9), 3-1.

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