E.A. Sports Today

Insightful night

Over the next four days, all of the County Tournament top seeds will be playing among themselves; it starts with J’ville over PV, Oxford over Alexandria

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — The Calhoun County Volleyball Tournament comes to the fore this weekend, but the way the schedule falls, the days leading up to it are serving to provide a little insight into what could unfold at the top of the seedlings.

The top four seeds are all playing some combination of each other this week. It started Tuesday night with third-seeded Jacksonville handing top-seeded Pleasant Valley only its second loss of the season 25-23, 25-22.

Meanwhile, down in Oxford, the second-seeded Lady Yellow Jackets beat fourth-seeded Alexandria 25-16, 25-23 and, really, more importantly in the big picture, took out Southside-Gadsden 25-13, 25-13, 25-19 to clinch their area title.

Oxford (25-13) and PV (29-2) get together along with Saks in the Lady Raiders’ gym Thursday night. It’s a rematch of last year’s County Tournament final.

And while the outcome of any of those matches by the end of the week likely won’t predict the outcome of the tournament, they will give those involved the most up-to-date insight into what they’re going to see Saturday (or Monday’s final) if they meet again.

“It’s good because you get a chance to become familiar with the teams and see them without it being an elimination situation the first time you see them or play them,” Jacksonville coach David Clark said. “As far as winning or losing, I don’t know it has a whole lot of bearing on it because last year we lost to the two teams in the finals – PV put us out — and then turned around the next week in the same week and beat them both.

“So winning and losing (these matches), I don’t think it’s as important as actually getting a feel for how they play, what kind of team they are, because if we do see them at least now we have an idea of the type of team they are.”

“It is a good preview for the county, to see where we lie and what we need to work on,” PV coach Dana Bryant said. “It’s a good window. You’ve got to go from somewhere.”

At the time of the county tournament seeding meeting, Pleasant Valley was undefeated and Jacksonville was right at the beginning of a lineup change. The Lady Eagles (23-8) have fully embraced the change now and you can’t argue with the results.

Jacksonville is 14-1 since making Tatiyana Thomas the full-time setter and moving a few other pieces around. It has helped the team find the consistency Clark has sought all season.

“We’ve gotten a lot better in the last two weeks,” Elizabeth Poe said

Neither team was particularly sharp – both beat Crossville in two sets later – but Clark was pleased with the way his team handled the 20-25 closing stretch in both sets against PV.

The Lady Raiders bounced back from their loss to beat Crossville 25-19, 25-22. Jacksonville won 25-21, 25-21.

Poe played a monster match against PV. She had a nearly 90 percent hitting percentage, eight kills, 14 digs and only one error among her serves. Aniyah Robinson had six kills and four aces. Sierra Stone had three kills and seven blocks. Reagan Stallings had 15 digs. Thomas had 36 assists and three blocks.

“I knew this was a big game, this was really going to say something about our team, so I knew I needed to step up,” Poe said. “We all needed to step up and show who we really were. It was a good test for us to see where we are in our county. We knew it was going to be a big game for them and us. I think we’re both still two of the big teams to beat in the county again.”

Cammy Cochran led PV with 16 kills, 16 digs and five blocks. Anna Bryant had 10 kills, 10 assists and 15 digs. Alisa St. John had eight kills, 18 digs. Savannah Williams served at 100 percent, had three kills, 13 assists and 17 digs.

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