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[corner-ad id=1]Lady Tigers beat hosts for their first Donoho Classic crown; PV takes out two top 3 teams in winning Silver Bracket

Donoho volleyball coach Janice Slay makes a point to her players during a time out in Saturday's Donoho Classic title match with Meek. Below, Pleasant Valley huddles after winning the tournament's Silver Bracket.

Donoho volleyball coach Janice Slay makes a point to her players during a time out in Saturday’s Donoho Classic title match with Meek. Below, Pleasant Valley huddles after winning the tournament’s Silver Bracket.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The 2½-hour bus ride back from the Donoho Classic hasn’t been the most pleasant for the Meek volleyball team the last couple years.

The one Saturday, however, promised to be particularly enjoyable.

The third-ranked Lady Tigers were heading home from here with the championship trophy packed in their luggage for the first time. They upended second-ranked host Donoho 26-24, 25-21 in the finals of a tournament that’s basically a preview of the Class 1A state finals.

“The seniors have been working on this since my sophomore year,” senior star Morgan Hudson said. “Two years ago when we did not make it to the finals we were devastated.”

Meek beat Donoho in pool play here last year and then lost to Ider in the Gold Bracket final. This year, the Lady Tigers beat Ider in the Gold semifinals (25-22, 25-16) before dispatching Donoho in the finals.

“We were definitely really pumped to play Ider; I think the girls definitely were out for a little blood for that one,” Meek coach Tara Branstetter said. “And they’ve always had intense competition with Donoho, so we were really fired up to play this game. The girls have been longing for this moment for a long time.”

The championship match was as tight as you might expect from two of the top three-ranked teams in Class 1A. The first set was tied nine times before Donoho used a late flurry to take the lead. Katie Brown was serving for the set at 24-22 when Meek broke her and scored the next three points to win it.

The second set was just as tight with neither team leading by more than three at any point until the end.

Kayla Wallace, Camille Fink and Madison Gaines all had six kills in the championship match for Donoho. Brown had 17 assists, Anna Marie Woodfin had 23 digs – several that kept spirited rallies alive – and Wallace and Camryn Swain each had three aces.

Earlier in the day, the Falcons swept through their pool of Munford, Piedmont and Ragland in straight sets, and beat White Plains in the bracket semifinals in similar fashion.

Brown’s curvy serve produced 16 aces in the tournament, and she had 70 assists. Fink and Wallace each scored 11 aces, Gaines had 29 kills, Wallace had 22 and Woodfin had 55 digs. Gaines and Peyton Suco had seven blocks each.

“We started with Munford and we played well and we got better each game,” Woodfin said. “When we got to the semis we really started to get it (going) and playing hard and once we got to the finals we played hard. We played the best we’ve played almost all season. I think we’re getting better each game and working harder. We just had a couple little mistakes that we’re going to work on and be better at.”

Pleasant Valley (19-5) won the Silver Bracket, beating two top-five 1A schools in the championship round. The Lady Raiders beat No. 1 Decatur Heritage in three sets in the semifinals and No. 5 Athens Bible in the final 25-14, 25-10.

But they left the gym feeling they should have beaten Meek in pool play, too. They lost to the eventual tournament champions in three sets and were leading at some point in the sets they lost, but bounced back to win their bracket.

“We’re proud that we won, but we know we should have won the gold,” PV setter Anna Bryant said.

Bryant finished the tournament with 23 kills, 77 assists, nine aces and 32 digs. Cammy Cochran had 44 kills, five aces, 46 digs and four blocks. Alisa St. John had 22 kills and 15 digs; Savanna Williams had 40 dogs and eight aces; Madi Bentley had 52 digs and five aces; Taylor Williams had 22 digs; Blakely Malsey had seven kills, 12 d8gs and five blocks; and Mikayla Kendrick had six blocks and eight digs.

DONOHO CLASSIC
Pool 1

Donoho 3-0
Ragland 2-1
Piedmont 1-2
Munford 0-3

Pool 2
Meek 3-0
Pleasant Valley 2-1
Faith Christian 1-2
Cornerstone 0-3

Pool 3
White Plains 3-0
Athens Bible 2-1
Sacred Heart 1-2
Holy Spirit 0-3

Pool 4
Ider 3-0
Decatur Heritage 2-1
Spring Garden 1-2
Wellborn 0-3

Gold Bracket
Donoho def. White Plains, 25-11, 25-17
Meek def. Ider, 25-22, 25-16
Finals: Meek def. Donoho, 26-24, 25-21

Silver Bracket
Athens Bible def. Ragland
Pleasant Valley def. Decatur Heritage, 25-18. 23-25, 15-13
Finals: Pleasant Valley def. Athens Bible, 25-14, 25-10

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