E.A. Sports Today

Passion played

Jacksonville has its way with Saks, wins another area volleyball tournament title

Jacksonville's Aniyah Robinson was overpowering at times Tuesday night. She had 12 of her tournament 23 kills and four aces in the championship match. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Jacksonville’s Aniyah Robinson was overpowering at times Tuesday night. She had 12 of her tournament 23 kills and four aces in the championship match. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — David Clark saw something in his Jacksonville volleyball team he hadn’t since the semifinal of last year’s Elite Eight – passion for the game.

His Golden Eagles were making acrobatic digs and pounding back powerful slams on the way to beating Saks in three sets Tuesday night to win the Class 4A Area 11 tournament championship.

Playing in front of a friendly crowd, top-seeded Jacksonville first dispatched Cleburne County in three sets, then put down the Lady Wildcats 25-22, 25-15, 25-12. Saks reached the finals by taking down White Plains in three sets.

The Golden Eagles (26-11), who’ve won area tournaments going back to 2003 as best as Clark can recall, now play Area 13 runner-up Priceville in Friday at 3 p.m. in their Class 4A North superregional opener in Huntsville. Saks (45-7) plays area champion DAR at 5:30.

It takes two wins to make it to the state championship round in Birmingham.

“I think that’s the first time, really, since probably team camp this summer that we played with that kind of passion and intensity, and I think that was really the difference,” Clark said. “We’ve been looking for that. We’ve been kind of searching for that. I told them in the locker room we probably got touches and digs on balls we hadn’t touched all year that really changed the match.

“Maybe it took those moments to bring that out. I’m hoping those things continue. I’m not sure this team this year has always brought that to the table, that intensity and passion that you’ve got to have to be successful, so hopefully we found it tonight and it continues to go forward.”

The teams played a tight first set, but when the Golden Eagles scored the final three points after Saks rallied from 21-15 down to tie it, it seemed to take something out of the Lady Wildcats.

Jacksonville pulled away from the second set with a 13-3 run that gave them a 19-12 lead, and the Golden Eagles simply had their way in the third set.

“They just took it to us; they beat us,” Saks coach Randy Law said. “Losing that first game really hurt. If we had won that I think it would’ve been a little bit different. They played loose and relaxed when they got that 2-0 lead; that was the difference. They were getting up there taking target practice on us (in the third set) and we didn’t respond very well.”

They didn’t pick an all-tournament team or MVP, but if they had Jacksonville’s Aniyah Robinson certainly would have received a lot of consideration. Clark called her “overpowering at times.”

She had 12 of her 23 tournament kills and four aces in the championship match. She had the clinching kill in the first set and scored back-to-back aces in the run that put away the second.

Elizabeth Poe, playing through an illness, had eight kills in the championship match (20 total). Halee Holtbrooks and Tatiyana Thomas combined for 44 assists in the two matches.

“Throughout the season we’ve been up and down – it’s been a rollercoaster for us – but this is the moment we’ve been waiting for and considering we got the win for area last year we wanted it again this year and we worked super hard for it,” Robinson said. “It was really special. We knew we had to do it.

“There comes a time where you’re down so many times in your season you’ve got to put your foot down and say this is where we’re going and to get there we have to do the stuff we’ve never done before. The more we get closer to where we’re trying to go, the more we realize we’re a team and we can do it together.

“Everything felt more natural to us tonight; we didn’t have to really think about it. There was never a low moment on the court tonight and I think that helped us out.”

Jordan Briskey and Tayler Teague each had seven kills for Saks in the championship match. Jaelyn Wilson had 20 assists.

NORTH SUPER REGIONAL SCHEDULE
VonBraun Center, Huntsville

Friday’s Games
(Involving Calhoun County teams)

Class 1A: Faith Christian (24-17) vs. Decatur Heritage (36-10), 10:15 a.m.
Class 5A: Alexandria (23-16) vs. West Point (23-17), 10:15 a.m.
Class 3A: Pleasant Valley (34-11) vs. Pisgah, 10:15 a.m.
Class 3A: Ohatchee (24-12) vs. Geraldine (32-17), 11:30 a.m.
Class 1A: Donoho (40-8) vs. Athens Bible (16-23), 12:45 p.m.
Class 3A: Wellborn (10-18) vs. Plainview, 12:45 p.m.
Class 4A: Jacksonville (26-11) vs. Priceville, 3 p.m.
Class 4A: Saks (45-7) vs. DAR, 5:30 p.m.
Class 6A: Oxford (37-17) vs. Austin, 6:45 p.m.

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