E.A. Sports Today

Making history

Oxford wins classic County Tournament final, beats surging Pleasant Valley in five sets for first volleyball title since 2007

Oxford junior Nyia Archie was named County Tournament MVP after delivering clutch points down the stretch in the Yellow Jackets' title-match victory over Pleasant Valley. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Oxford junior Nyia Archie was named County Tournament MVP after delivering clutch points down the stretch in the Yellow Jackets’ title-match victory over Pleasant Valley. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — For the past two weeks Wendy McKibbin has been preaching to her Oxford volleyball team the importance of finishing matches.

The Yellow Jackets found a way and finished Monday night and were rewarded with their Calhoun County Volleyball Tournament title since 2007.

The top-seeded Jackets defeated surging sixth-seeded Pleasant Valley 3 sets to 2 in the first high school event held in Jacksonville State’s refurbished Pete Mathews Coliseum. They won the decisive fifth set 15-11, clinching it on a kill by Breanna Nolan.

“We haven’t won county in seven years; we made history tonight and we all wanted it,” Jackets junior middle hitter and tournament MVP Nyia Archie said. “We got down, but pushed through and finished it.

“It feels like we’re a team again, like we’re a family; that’s what it feels like.”

In a final tournament director Rusty Thrasher called “a heck of a match in a heck of an arena,” Oxford won the first set 25-21, Pleasant Valley won the second 25-15, Oxford won the third 25-23 and PV, looking to stun its third top-three seed in a row, forced the tiebreaker 25-22.

Every set except the second was tight and the appreciative crowd hung on every point.

Oxford (29-12) won the first set by winning six of the last seven points with Archie putting away the winner. Pleasant Valley (28-6) seized control of the second with an 8-0 run highlighted by three straight kills from Cammy Cochran, the tournament’s outstanding offensive player.

The Yellow Jackets won the third set by scoring the final four points after Leah Johnson’s ace gave PV a 23-21 lead. And the Lady Raiders closed out the fourth set after a 6-1 run gave them a 23-17 lead.

“Wow, what a match,” McKibbin said. “If you were up three or four points in any set it wasn’t over. It was a great match.

“It was a battle – battle, battle, battle. We’ve been preaching for the last two weeks you’ve gotta finish, you’ve gotta finish, you’ve gotta finish. You’ve got to push. You’ve got to find a way. You’ve got to find a way; they did. They finished tonight.”

Oxford broke away from the tiebreaker with a 7-1 run that produced a 12-7 lead; PV never got closer than three after that. Archie had three kills in the decisive run and teamed with Sara Connell for a big point block to put the Jackets on the cusp of clinching.

The tournament MVP had 14 kills in the match.

“She’s on; she’s on fire tonight,” McKibbin said. “She sees the court well. She wants the ball in her hands. You could see the last five or six points of this game we went to her.”

“You have a go-to person and Chloe (Stone) went to a person she knew would put the ball down,” Archie said. “At that moment she chose me at the end and I put it down.”

Stone finished with 36 assists in the match. Teammate Karagan Timmons was named the tournament’s best defensive player for her overall digs, serve receptions and saves on the floor. The complete all-tournament team is listed below.

Nolan and Winter Taylor each had nine kills. Nolan had 22 digs. Laura Davenport had 18, Stone 15, Taylor Ellison 14 and Connell 12.

Pleasant Valley rode its defense to reach its first county tournament final since 2003 when it was a regular in the match. The Lady Raiders had 22 blocks in the match and made numerous digs to keep some of the longest rallies they had all season alive.

Cochran had 23 kills and 26 digs in the final. Anna Bryant had 36 digs and 33 assists. Savannah Williams had 29 digs, Taylor Williams had 25 and Mikayla Kendrick had 11 blocks.

The Lady Raiders entered the tournament with the mindset of refusing to lose and beat area rival Piedmont, No. 3 Jacksonville and No. 2 Saks to reach the final.

“We played our hearts out tonight, but we did not start with the enthusiasm we started Saturday with, the energy level,” PV coach Dana Bryant said. “We came out with all the expectations to come out on top tonight, but it didn’t happen. You pick yourself up by your bootstraps and keep going.”

(On the cover: Karagan Timmons (13) and Taylor Ellison lead Oxford’s celebration of the County Volleyball Tournament championship.)

CALHOUN COUNTY VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT
Championship match

No. 1 Oxford (29-12) def. No. 6 Pleasant Valley (28-6), 3-2 (25-21, 15-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-11)

All-Tournament Team
Landry Bussey, White Plains
Haley Shaw, Sacred Heart
Anna Marie Woodfin, Donoho
Sierra Stone, Jacksonville
Jordan Briskey, Saks
Tayler Teague, Saks
Savannah Beck, Alexandria
Taylor Spradling, Alexandria
Anna Bryant, Pleasant Valley
Savannah Williams, Pleasant Valley
Taylor Williams, Pleasant Valley
Sara Connell, Oxford
Breanna Nolan, Oxford
Winter Taylor, Oxford

Top Offensive Player: Cammy Cochran, Pleasant Valley
Top Defensive Player: Karagan Timmons, Oxford
Most Valuable Player: Nyia Archie, Oxford

Pleasant Valley's Anna Bryant (3) sets up a play at the net while teammate Leah Johnson gets in position. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Pleasant Valley’s Anna Bryant (3) sets up a play at the net while teammate Leah Johnson gets in position. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)



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