E.A. Sports Today

White Plains repeat

Lady Wildcats win Wellborn SlamFest for second year in a row, gain valuable momentum heading into a big week ahead

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

There were two ideas Joi Watts wanted to impress upon her White Plains volleyball players as they sat over the breakfast she made for them after a tournament-day practice Saturday morning.

Gain some momentum for what is a big week ahead and successfully defend the Wellborn SlamFest title they won last year.

The Lady Wildcats did both, avenged an earlier pool-play loss with a 25-19, 25-10 win over Sacred Heart in the tournament final.

“This is our second year in the tournament and I kind of told them it’d be cool if we went back-to-back, and with that being said this is what we have to do to do that,” Watts said. “We got up early this morning, had an hour practice, I made them breakfast and we talked about our goals moving forward.

“This is kind of a momentum weekend for us. We’ve got two area matches next week (at Cherokee County Monday and Hokes Bluff Thursday, plus the Calhoun County Tournament Saturday). We wanted to start jelling a bit better. I think we’re in a good place to be able to play those teams.”

The Lady Wildcats lost to Sacred Heart in their final match of pool play 25-20, 25-12 after sitting idle for several hours after opening the tournament with back-to-back wins over Cleburne County (25-11, 25-13) and Ohatchee (25-22, 25-10).

They won a tense three-setter over Wellborn in the semifinals (25-13, 23-25, 15-11) before beating Sacred Heart for the championship. Now 17-12, they have surpassed their number of victories all of last season.

“I knew going into the championship we were winded and gassed; it came down to who wanted it more,” Watts said. “I told them it was gut-check time. Everybody was tired, but we didn’t necessarily have to be bigger or stronger; we needed to be smarter.

“I think it clicked with some of my girls immediately; they saw open spots and they placed ball in that spot. When you can start using that part of the game to your advantage you see a lot of points build up. The whole day was to be able to say we won this last year and did it again. I was pleased with the way they responded.”

Typical of their play this season, the Lady Wildcats got contributions across the board.

Landry Bussey had 29 kills, three blocks, 14 digs, six aces and a .282 hitting percentage for the tournament. Hannah Barno had 15 kills, eight digs and five blocks, while Ryleigh Randall had 87 assists, 16 kills, 19 digs and three aces.

Destani Alvarado had 20 kills and 27 digs; Rian Chandler nine kills and 11 digs; Jocelyn Harris nine kills, four blocks and five digs; Katelyn Barnett 15 digs and 5 aces; Lucy Medders 39 digs and 12 aces; Korie Burgess 46 digs and five aces; Isabella Pinto 70 digs and four aces.

“What’s cool about my group of girls is each of them have specific roles and they carry them out to the fullest,” Watts said. “We’re never going to have necessarily one who dominates the match but throughout the day I can look back and say here was a specific game or match where this one stepped up or that one stepped up. It’s always kind of even across the stat line.”

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