E.A. Sports Today

PV’s will to win

Pleasant Valley uses inspired run to reach county volleyball final, plays top-seeded Oxford for title Monday

Pleasant Valley's Mikayla Kendrick and Leah Johnson (6) line up on one of the 17 blocks the Lady Raiders had in their match with Saks. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Pleasant Valley’s Mikayla Kendrick and Leah Johnson (6) line up on one of the 17 blocks the Lady Raiders had in their match with Saks. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — The seeds of what the Pleasant Valley volleyball team did Saturday weren’t planted in the hours before it opened the Calhoun County Volleyball Tournament that morning.

They were sewn two weeks before when the coaches in the county seeded the Lady Raiders sixth in the tournament field.

Riding the notion they were grossly underseeded, all they did Saturday was sweep through three matches in straight sets, beating the two-time defending champions and the second seed in consecutive matches to reach Monday’s tournament final for the first time in a dozen years.

The Lady Raiders swept Piedmont 25-9, 25-11, 25-15, then most impressively took down third-seeded Jacksonville 25-23, 29-27, 25-20 to guarantee a new county champion and second-seeded Saks 25-18, 25-19, 25-23 to open the possibility it would be them.

Now they will play top-seeded Oxford 6 p.m. Monday at Jacksonville State for the title. It will be their first trip to the finals since 2003, the last time they won it and the last year in a 20-year run in which they appeared in the finals 18 times.

“We’ve been working on the mindset ‘refuse to lose,’” PV coach Dana Bryant said. “That was our theme throughout this whole week. It was our theme for today. … They didn’t come in today with a mindset of ‘we hope we win today,’ they came in with a mindset of ‘we will,’ and that’s half the battle.

“Someone made the comment to me you don’t want to set your goals too high because what if they don’t reach it, and I thought well they can. I knew they could. They set their goal to win all three games today and they did that, and they’re not finished. Monday night, hopefully, we will finish what we started today.”

The coaches set the Lady Raiders on this path by seeding them sixth behind Oxford, Saks, Jacksonville, Alexandria and Donoho at a time when most of the upper seeds had split amongst themselves and PV had beaten Donoho twice at the time of the vote.

The Lady Raiders (28-5) haven’t lost a set since their final match of pool play in the Donoho Classic — to eventual tournament champion Meek.

“Everybody thought we weren’t going to do good today and they didn’t think that we could, but we just showed we that we can do anything if we put our mind to it,” said Leah Johnson, whose fifth kill clinched the Saks match. “We were all very upset with our seeding because we knew that we should have been higher but we showed today we should have been.”

The key to the Lady Raiders’ run Saturday was its defense, especially in the last two matches. They had 10 blocks against Jacksonville and 17 against Saks – even though it was their third match of the day.

“They did what it took to win; they played real good defense, blocking and digging,” Saks coach Randy Law said. “They blocked us.”

Mikayla Kendrick had six blocks in the match and Blakely Malsey had four. Cammy Cochran had 11 kills, 22 digs and five aces. Savannah Williams had 18 digs and Taylor Williams had 15. Anna Bryant dished 24 assists.

For the day, Kendrick had nine blocks, Malsey eight, Cochran 49 kills and 39 digs, Savannah Williams 41 digs, Taylor Williams 36 digs and Bryant 20 kills, 13 aces, 72 assists, 22 digs and five blocks.

Oxford (28-12) reached the finals by beating White Plains 25-20, 25-9, 25-19 and No. 4 Alexandria 25-17, 25-13, 25-19. The Yellow Jackets, who drew a first-round bye, are in the finals for the second year in a row and seventh time in the last 12 years.

Anna Bryant sets up one of her 24 assists in Pleasant Valley's semifinals victory over Saks. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Anna Bryant sets up one of her 24 assists in Pleasant Valley’s semifinals victory over Saks. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

CALHOUN COUNTY VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT
At Jacksonville High School

First-round matches
No. 8 White Plains def. No. 9 Faith Christian, 3-1 (22-25, 14-25, 25-23, 25-9)
No. 5 Donoho def. No. 12 Weaver, 3-0 (25-11, 25-11, 25-13)
No. 4 Alexandria def. No. 13 Wellborn, 3-0 (25-9, 25-11, 25-11)
No. 3 Jacksonville def. No. 14 JCA, 3-0 (25-4, 25-12, 25-18)
No. 6 Pleasant Valley def. No. 11 Piedmont, 3-0 (25-9, 25-11, 25-15)
No. 10 Sacred Heart def. No. 7 Ohatchee, 3-1 (25-16, 25-18, 21-25, 25-22)
No. 2 Saks def. No. 15 Anniston, 3-0 (25-4, 25-9, 25-16)

Second-round matches
No. 1 Oxford def. White Plains, 3-0 (25-20, 25-9, 25-19)
Alexandria def. Donoho, 3-0 (25-9, 25-11, 25-11)
Pleasant Valley def. Jacksonville, 3-0 (25-23, 29-27, 25-20)
Saks def. Sacred Heart, 3-0 (25-8, 25-8, 25-9)

Semifinals
Oxford def. Alexandria, 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-19)
Pleasant Valley def. Saks, 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-23)

Championship match
Monday, at Jacksonville State
Oxford (28-12) vs. Pleasant Valley (28-5), 6 p.m.

Cammy Cochran had 11 kills in the Saks match and 49 during PV's three victories. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Cammy Cochran had 11 kills in the Saks match and 49 during PV’s three victories. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)



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