E.A. Sports Today

Weaver gets a shot

Lady Bearcats bounce back from first-set loss to win its first area volleyball title in recent memory, advance to North Regional

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

WEAVER — Two years ago Weaver volleyball coach Casey Maples took her team to the Elite Eight in Birmingham to give them a sense of what that life was all about.

The Lady Bearcats liked the experience well enough, but made it a point to say they wouldn’t be back until they were playing in it.

Now they have a shot.

The Lady Bearcats won the Class 3A Area 9 title Monday night with a 3-1 win over Wellborn in a match moved into Weaver’s lower gym because of an equipment issue. The scores were 17-25, 25-19, 25-16, 25-20.

Mariah Thompson was named tournament MVP. She had 19 kills and 11 digs in the championship match. “She played great,” Maples said.

Weaver (18-14) now plays the North regional at Huntsville Thursday at 11:30 a.m. against Area 13 runnerup New Hope. Wellborn plays Area 13 winner Geraldine at 10:15 a.m.

The Lady Bearcats clicked off two items on their goal list — winning the area regular season and tournament. Two wins in Huntsville will get them to that Elite Eight.

It wasn’t immediately certain when the last time Weaver won an area volleyball tournament; it is believed to be more than 10 years. The players thought it was 2004, but they were reading off a basketball banner. AHSAA records indicate the 1984 Weaver team made it to the Class 3A Final Four.

“I know this is big for us,” Maples said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been here. With this group of kids, this was just a huge deal for them. We put ourselves in a good position for the next step and that’s all we wanted to do.

“Throughout the year we had boxes we’ve checked off. Tonight we get to check off another box and we’re super excited about that.”

The Lady Bearcats were guaranteed a place in the regional by winning the regular-season title in the three-team area, but they didn’t want to settle for a free ride.

They dropped the first set and that might have been the best thing that ever happened to them. In addition to Thompson’s MVP numbers, Rayne Beck scored 16 kills, Amira Carter logged 38 assists and Skyler Watson recorded 18 digs.

“I think we got a little bit ahead of ourselves at first and that first (set) really brought us back,” Maples said. “We talked a lot about having a vision and so they’ve seen our vision play out.

“If we don’t see it before it happens then what are we going to do when we get there.”

That’s what the trip to the Elite Eight was all.

Thompson remembered the trip and it made her want to get there and play. The Lady Bearcats have enjoyed an increased number of victories every year of Maples’ tenure and now they have a chance to complete the circle.

“Everybody was so excited,” she said. “We saw so many different team play. We just always talked about going there and then we finally accomplished it. Some of us really never thought to be there, but I guess we all came together as a team and put the work in.”

Wellborn reached the area final with a 3-2 win over Ohatchee. The matches were forced into Weaver’s “new” gym when the Lady Panthers dislodged a light guard during warmups causing safety concerns with the dangling piece of metal.

It didn’t bother the home team. They practice in the facility all the time.

All-Tournament Team

Ohatchee — Jordyn Molock, Shey Clements.

Wellborn — Elizabeth Wyatt, Vanessa Carter, Lynzee Hicks.

Weaver — Rayne Beck, Amira Carter, Skylar Watson, Mariah Thompson (MVP).

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