E.A. Sports Today

Back on the floor

Slay returns to Donoho volleyball program after brief ‘retirement,’ directs Lady Falcons to season-opening sweep

Donoho's Madison Gaines goes airborne to set a shot back over the net Thursday. On the cover, Janice Slay listens to pre-game instructions before the first game of her return as Donoho's volleyball coach. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Donoho’s Madison Gaines goes airborne to set a shot back over the net Thursday. On the cover, Janice Slay listens to pre-game instructions before the first game of her return as Donoho’s volleyball coach. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Thursday’s scoreboard
Faith Christian 2, Wellborn 0 (25-20, 25-17)
Faith Christian 2, White Plains 0 (25-7, 25-23)
Oxford 2, Lawrence County 0 (25-23, 25-15)
Oxford 2, Alexandria 0 (27-25, 25-18)
Donoho 2, Ohatchee 0 (25-18, 25-15)
Donoho 2, Piedmont 0 (25-9, 25-21)
Ohatchee 2, Piedmont 1 (23-15, 25-18, 15-11)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

The gym was sweltering on a hot August night as the Piedmont, Ohatchee and host Donoho volleyball teams and their fans crammed into Sproull Gymnasium for a tri-match Thursday. It was a scene that has been duplicated many times in the past, but this one was special.

It was special because there at the end of the Donoho bench sat longtime coach Janice Slay.

Slay was all set to enjoy life as a retired coach. The Falcons had announced former Donoho player Rachel Taylor would become the new coach and Slay’s legacy would be the benchmark by which future teams would be judged.

But Taylor left for a full-time job in the Oxford school system and that left the Lady Falcons needing a coach. Slay answered the call.

It mattered little that Donoho swept its two matches, beating Ohatchee 25-18, 25-15 and Piedmont 25-9, 25-21. It was fitting the Falcons swept and displayed the discipline and teamwork that are the marks of a Slay-coached team.

So, how was retirement?

“Well, it certainly did not last as long as I expected,” Slay said. ”They had a coach but then she had to take another opportunity and I felt like that I owed coming back to my four returning seniors.

“I love this game and I love to coach. I love the kids and all the people and I still did even when I was retired for that short time. My husband is here tonight and he has been good about it.”

It is a treasured encore this year, as Donoho fans get to make more memories with Slay and her team. In her previous seven years with the program she posted a 288-82 record with two Class 1A state championships (2011, 2012), two runnerup finishes (2013, 2015) and a Calhoun County Tournament title (2011).

In Slay’s triumphant return to the bench, Madison Gaines was dazzling all over the court with kills and blocks to lead the Falcons. Peyton Suco and Katherine Brown were controlling the nets and Ryleigh Warren, Maren Christian and Jenna Stremmel were coming up with digs to keep the ball in play.

The Falcons got a bit of scare in the second set of the Piedmont victory as the Bulldogs rallied from 12-2 deficit to cut the lead to 22-21, before Donoho scored three straight points to close out the match.

“It is always rough at the start of the season as we are trying to figure out what we need to do to get into a rhythm,” Slay said.

Ohatchee rallies to edge Piedmont, 2-1

The Lady Indians dropped the first set 25-23 to the Bulldogs, but rallied to take the second 25-18 and third 15-11. Shay Clements’ kill finished off the third set to give Ohatchee the win.

Piedmont took control of the first set when its reeled off five straight points behind the serves of Carmen Ross to take a 24-19 lead. Ohatchee jumped out 6-1 in the second set on the serving of Madison Howard and Jordan Molock, then reeled off five straight points after Lulu Jackson and Sydney Prater helped Piedmont cut the lead to 20-18.

“We’ve got some things to work on,” Ohatchee coach Rachel Pruitt said. “There was some good stuff also, but we have to get to work. We learned that we needed to focus on our passing.”

Ohatchee's Emma McCombs (32) celebrates a key point in the Lady Indians' win over Piedmont. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Ohatchee’s Emma McCombs (32) celebrates a key point in the Lady Indians’ win over Piedmont. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Oxford sweeps Lawrence County, Alexandria

The Lady Jackets dug themselves a hole in one game of each match, but maintained their composure and fought through the adversity. They beat Lawrence County 25-23, 25-15, and Alexandria 27-25, 25-18.

Nyia Archie had 15 kills, two aces and eight blocks. Rachel Uhrin had 12 kills. JoJo Sinner had seven kills, eight digs, two blocks and two aces. Chloe Stone had 39 assists and 12 digs.

Faith sweeps Wellborn, White Plains

The Lady Lions handled Wellborn 25-20, 25-17 and White Plains 25-7, 25-23. Emily Sills scored eight aces, eight kills and 15 digs. Nicole Frechette had five aces, 10 kills and 20 digs. Abby Emerson scored seven aces and 28 assists. Cornelia Simpson had six aces, 11 kills and 13 digs.

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