E.A. Sports Today

Bringing a title ‘home’

Donoho wins area volleyball title that got away last year, advances to super regionals with Faith Christian

Faith Christian is advancing out of area play for the first time since 2011, heading to Huntsville as the Area 10 runner-up. On the cover, Donoho celebrates winning the area tournament title.

Faith Christian is advancing out of area play for the first time since 2011, heading to Huntsville as the Area 10 runner-up. On the cover, Donoho celebrates winning the area tournament title.

“It’s nice to have it back home. We kind of feel like it belongs here, so it’s kind of nice to have it back.”
— Donoho coach Janice Slay

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Donoho brought the area volleyball championship it seemingly plays for every year “home” Monday night.

The Lady Falcons won the Class 1A Area 10 title that got away from them last year, beating Jacksonville Christian and Faith Christian each in three sets.

They beat JCA 25-11, 25-6, 25-14 and Faith for the area title 25-14, 25-14, 25-12. Faith reached the championship match by defeating Sacred Heart in three sets.

The Lady Falcons last won the area in 2013. Sacred Heart snatched it away from them in their own gym last year.

“It’s nice to have it back home,” Donoho coach Janice Slay said. “We kind of feel like it belongs here, so it’s kind of nice to have it back.

“We had to work for it, obviously. It wasn’t something that was easy to get and we’re proud of the girls for sticking in there and doing their job to get it back.”

Both Donoho (40-8) and Faith (24-17) advance to the super regional in Huntsville Friday. No. 3 Donoho plays eighth-ranked Area 15 runner-up Athens Bible at 12:45 p.m., while Faith will play top-ranked area champion Decatur Heritage at 10 a.m.

“You do get a runner-up from another area,” Slay said. “Unfortunately for us this year one of the matchups for us is from an area that has two really good schools.

“Our first round game will be a pretty tough one; second round might not be, but we’ve got to get through the first one first. We’re hoping — and I am hoping — from the momentum that we had tonight we can carry that over and it’s not something we look at who we’re playing but just how we’re playing.”

The key to the Donoho’s victory was its serving was “really on target.”

The Lady Falcons had 35 aces in their two matches, 11 by Kayla Wallace and nine by Madison Gaines. Camille Fink had 26 total kills, Gaines had 14 and Peyton Suco had 12. Katie Brown had 51 assists.

Interestingly, they have enjoyed their success this year with a minimum complement of players – eight – and they’ve become known as the “Super 8” because of it.

“Part of the motivation for this year was to get back where we were, where we have been,” Slay said. “Donoho has a legacy. It’s something that looms pretty large, especially when you walk in the gym and see those things on the wall every day. Its something they want to continue in.

“We knew it was going to be tough having eight kids, but I think they’re digging really deep and that’s what I need to for them to do. They’re answering the call and they’re buying into what we need to do as far as our offense and defense. I never thought it would be easy and it hasn’t been, but the dividends are hopefully down the road.”

Most of the Donoho players declined comment on their championship effort, but Suco said “my team played real well.”

Faith, meanwhile, advances out of area play for the first time since 2011. The Lady Lions are 20-game winners this season after winning only seven times last season and nine the season before.

“We had a pretty hard summer in the weight room and they were told pretty much anything other than regionals is a failure,” coach Bradley Dawson said. “I thought we had enough talent. We just lack self-confidence.

“When we play with confidence and play with some fun we can compete. You saw tonight at times we didn’t play with any enthusiasm – that’s what happens when you get beat 25-12 – but this group is starting to believe in themselves and when they do we’re really good.

“If this group can get confidence in themselves I think we have a really good chance to be really good in the future. I think these ninth graders if they go out not getting to the finals or the Elite Eight I’ve done them a disservice, they’ve not reached their potential.”

The team’s lone senior, Madison Stephens, had nine kills, eight blocks and 45 digs in the two matches. Junior Cornelia Simpson had 23 kills, 12 blocks and 43 digs. Freshman Zana Christjohn had five kills, three blocks and six digs. Freshman Nicole Frechette had seven kills, five aces and 37 digs.

The Lady Lions led early in all three sets in the match against Donoho.

“I’m excited we’re getting to experience something new and take the volleyball program to a new level we haven’t been to in a while,” Stephens said. “At the beginning of this year I knew we were going to be pretty good. I knew we were totally capable of it if we could just play our game and stay focused and play the way we know how.

“We came in here a little nervous because the pressure was on, but once we won that (first) game it was kind of like we have nothing to lose, we just need to have fun out here because we’re going regardless.”


Haley Moses, JCA
Haley Shaw, Sacred Heart
Olivia Simmons, Sacred Heart
Zana Christjohn, Faith Christian
Cornelia Simpson, Faith Christian
Madison Stephens, Faith Christian
Camille Fink, Donoho
Camryn Swain, Donoho
Kayla Wallace, Donoho
Anna Marie Woodfin, Donoho

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