E.A. Sports Today

Special surprise

Donoho’s “Super 8” wins regional championship; Jacksonville, Saks going to Elite Eight

The Saks players and coaches show their excitement after knocking off Carbon Hill to earn their first trip to the state tournament since 2006.

The Saks players and coaches show their excitement after knocking off Carbon Hill to earn their first trip to the state tournament since 2006.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

HUNTSVILLE – When Donoho volleyball coach Janice Slay looks back on all the teams she’s coached in her career there are unique qualities she recalls fondly about each one.

When she reflects on her current group of Lady Falcons, it may bring some of the most special memories of all.

Donoho won the Class 1A North regional Saturday at the VonBraun Center, coming back from losing the first set to take down Meek 3-1. It wasn’t just the reward of the day that will set this team apart, but the circumstances it has had to endure to get here.

This is a team with a limited complement of players – eight to be precise, lending itself to the nickname “Super 8.” With that limited lineup, all the Lady Falcons have done is won more than 40 matches this season, won an area championship that escaped them a year ago, got back to the state tournament it missed last year and put their sights squarely on a state title.

Deeper teams who went home from here could only wish for that.

“I would probably be not too hesitant to say that probably nobody’s more surprised than I am,” Slay said. “You don’t start with eight kids and expect to be able to win a region championship, especially when you play a team like Meek that is extremely talented and very deep and we’re not.

“We’re outsized by everybody that we play, so if I’m looking at that logically, I don’t see us winning this, but I’ve learned with my kids that logic doesn’t always follow what would normally be. It’s an understatement to say that I’m very proud of them. I don’t know what else to say. They’re really special.”

The Lady Falcons (44-8) lost the first set in the championship match 25-18 and trailed 7-2 early in the second, then stormed back to win 25-23, 25-15 and 27-25. They made the most hay when Meek’s 5-11 senior middle Morgan Hudson was on the back row.

They now play Fruitdale (16-4), the No. 4 seed from the South, in their Elite Eight opener at Birmingham’s Crossplex Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.

Two other Calhoun County teams will join them there. Jacksonville and Saks had hoped to be playing each other for the 4A region championship; instead, they played in the consolation round, with Jacksonville winning in three sets, 25-19, 25-20, 25-18.

The Golden Eagles (30-11) will play South No. 2 Trinity Presbyterian (23-16) Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., while the Lady Wildcats (47-9) will play South champion St. James (30-8) at 8.

Camille Fink had 14 of her 31 kills on the day and two aces of her 13 aces in the Meek match. Madison Gaines had 12 of her 28 kills in the match, while Camryn Swain had 24 of her 56 digs and Katie Brown had 32 of her 85 assists against the Tigers.

“We do have a limited number, but we’ve put in a lot of hard work … so as a team this is just really special for all of us to get this and make a name for Donoho,” Brown said. “It’s just really special for all of us to come out here and show everyone what were made of and what we’ve come to do.”

The county trio qualified for Elite Eight by winning their first matches of the day. Donoho had an easy time with Cedar Bluff, 25-7, 25-7, 25-5; Saks took out 60-win Carbon Hill, 25-19, 25-23, 25-23; and Jacksonville eliminated Deshler 25-12, 23-25, 25-14, 25-23.

After securing their spots, Donoho was brilliant in beating Brilliant 3-0 (25-9, 25-13, 25-12), but Saks lost its momentum after winning the first set and fell to defending state champion Danville 3-1 (22-25, 25-17, 25-11, 25-9) and Jacksonville lost to Brooks 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-16).

Saks will be making its first appearance in the state tournament since 2006, the year it won the last of its three state championships, so it was understandable the emotion was overflowing when it clinched against one of the top teams in the state.

“We had a good feeling back in the summer,” Lady Wildcats coach Randy Law said. “We’re excited, we really are.

“This means the world. That was one of our goals. One of our goals was to win county and we didn’t do that, was kind of flat there, and it was a goal to get to state — and hopefully win state.”

Jordan Briskey had 13 kills and two aces in the Carbon Hill match. Tayler Teague had seven kills and two aces. Snider had four kills, Lamonica Noel had three blocks and Jaelyn Wilson had 20 assists.

Jacksonville coach David Clark credited his team’s ball control for the win over Deshler. Against Brooks the sets were tight, but the Golden Eagles just couldn’t finish.

Elizabeth Poe had 17 kills in the Deshler match. Aniyah Robinson had 16 kills. Sarah Lumpkin had 12 kills and five blocks. Halee Holtbrooks and Tatiyana Thomas combined for 38 assists.

In the win over Saks, Sierra Stone had 14 kills and seven blocks but appeared to re-aggravate an ankle injury that sidelined her a week late in the season in the third set. Reagan Stallings had 12 digs, Holtbrooks had 15 assists and Thomas had five kills and five assists.

“You’ve got to get there to have a chance and we’re there; that’s the biggest thing,” Clark said. “It was important to win this one; it’s a hard thing to do. This is the toughest one. You’ve got to come over here and play for a seeding, which is hard for the kids to understand, but I thought we approached it the right away.”

Donoho's Katie Brown sets up one of her 32 assists in the region title match against Meek. On the cover, the Donoho players rush the floor after clinching the title. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Donoho’s Katie Brown sets up one of her 32 assists in the region title match against Meek. On the cover, the Donoho players rush the floor after clinching the title. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Jacksonville's Sierra Stone goes high to put away a shot against Deshler. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Jacksonville’s Sierra Stone goes high to put away a shot against Deshler. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Saks' Jordan Briskey makes a play at the net during Saturday's North Super Regional. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Saks’ Jordan Briskey makes a play at the net during Saturday’s North Super Regional. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)



You must be logged in to post a comment Login