E.A. Sports Today

Jackets make case

Oxford rallies in first set to sweep Alexandria, night; 7-1 in-county record looms big for favorable county tournament seed

Oxford's Winter Taylor smashes a shot back across the net against Alexandria Thursday night. (Photo by Mike Lett/Lett's Focus Photography)

Oxford’s Winter Taylor smashes a shot back across the net against Alexandria Thursday night. (Photo by Mike Lett/Lett’s Focus Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Next week’s seeding meeting for the Calhoun County Volleyball Tournament has the chance to be a ballot box free-for-all.

Any of probably five teams could have a claim on the No. 1 seed and the overall voting is expected to be as close as ever.

Oxford solidified its pitch Thursday, beating Southside and county rival Alexandria in straight sets.

The Jackets defeated Southside 25-14, 25-21, and then took down Alexandria 25-22, 25-19. In between, Alexandria defeated Southside 25-14, 25-21.

With the nightcap win, the Jackets improved to 7-1 against county teams this season, which should give the coaches food for thought with eight teams either ranked or receiving consideration in the statewide poll.

“This helps us, but we’ve lost a match to Jacksonville, they lost a match to us, but they also lost a match to Alexandria,” Oxford coach Wendy McKibbin said. “They’re going to vote how they’re going to vote, we’ll see what happens.

“It doesn’t really matter what your seed is other than getting the bye (at No. 1). You’ve got to go on the third (Oct. 3) and you’ve got to play.”

Against teams expected to be voted high, the Yellow Jackets are 2-0 with Alexandria and 1-1 with Jacksonville. Alexandria also is 1-1 with Jacksonville. Neither have played Saks or Donoho – top 3 teams in their respective classifications — and neither play another county team before Wednesday’s seeding meeting.

It’s such a tossup, David Clark, coach of defending champion Jacksonville, didn’t mind saying earlier this week he wasn’t sure how he was going to vote.

“Obviously, I feel like Oxford will be ahead of us,” Valley Cubs coach Whitney Welch said. “I don’t know about Saks; I know they have a good record, but I don’t know what their schedule is like. We’ll see where we end up and go from there.”

McKibbin credited a just-have-fun approach after a tough area loss in its last start for the night’s success. The Jackets came from behind to win the first set, so they didn’t let inevitable mistakes bother them, and carried that momentum into the second.

The Cubs forced Oxford to take a timeout after a 7-1 run produced a 16-12 lead. They led 22-18, then the Yellow Jackets scored the last seven points – the last six with Sara Connell serving – to win. One of the points was an ace.

“I just try to get it to the right zone coach tells me to get it to,” Connell said. “I was worried a little bit because sometimes we’ll dig a hole and it takes us some time to get out of it, but once we have one person who continuously kills the ball or serves it then we get up again and we start getting excited and we get a bunch of points and we’ll win the game.”

In the second set, the Jackets simply kept more of the many balls both teams kept off the floor and put more shots away. They took control of the second set with an early 10-2 run and stayed in front. Alexandria drew within 23-19 before Oxford scored the final two points – with Connell scoring the clinching kill.

“I just don’t think this team has learned how to finish yet,” Valley Cubs coach Whitney Welch said. “We played great the whole game and when they went on a little run there at the end I felt us start to press and instead of just going after it and finishing it we got a little timid.

“Unfortunately they just have to learn to get through that. It’s something I don’t feel you can really coach feel you can coach, they just have to keep playing together and figure out how to do that.”

Connell had four kills and seven digs against Alexandria, seven and 19 in the two matches respectively. Breanna Nolan and Nyia Archie both had nine kills in the Alexandria match; Nolan also had nine digs and 19 total. Chloe Stone had 30 assists in the Alexandria match, 44 total.

Savannah Beck had 10 kills, 20 digs and 16 assists in the two matches for Alexandria. Tori Rae Stillwell had 10 kills, Catelyn Howell five kills and 18 digs, Tori Pope 32 digs and Gracie Muncher 15 assists.

Alexandria's Lauren O'Dell (L) and Cheyenne Locklear go up to defend a shot by Oxford's Sara Connell (5) Thursday night. (Photo by Mike Lett/Lett's Focus Photography)

Alexandria’s Lauren O’Dell (L) and Cheyenne Locklear go up to defend a shot by Oxford’s Sara Connell (5) Thursday night. (Photo by Mike Lett/Lett’s Focus Photography)

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