E.A. Sports Today

Serving up a winner

Lesson from 2015 playoffs has spurred Alexandria’s volleyball team to a new approach on offense that’s made it a power

Alexandria’s Taylor Spradley goes high for one of her 13 kills against Jacksonville. On the cover, Lady Cubs senior Gracie Muncher gets ready to deliver another of her effective serves. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Coaches say the smartest teams always learn something from the losses. You don’t want to have too many of those lessons, of course, but losses don’t necessarily have to be a lost cause.

The Alexandria volleyball team learned a lesson in the state playoffs two years ago that has stayed with them to this day. It goes to the premium the Valley Cubs place on their service game.

They were as sharp as ever from the back line Thursday night in beating Douglas 3-0 and county rival Jacksonville 2-0. They swept Douglas 25-10, 25-15, 25-15 and Jacksonville 25-12, 25-21, and the key was what happened when they put the ball in play.

“We’ve always all year tried to serve aggressively and consistently,” Alexandria coach Whitney Welch said. “I remember two years ago when we got beat in the play-in game by Randolph they served us to death and went on to win (the state championship). We’ve tried to focus on that, so live and learn.

“It’s something we picked up on so ever since then I’ve been really trying to emphasize that.”

The Valley Cubs (23-4) scored 10 aces in each match Thursday and now have 178 aces for the season, an average of 6.6 per match. Gracie Muncher had seven aces in the two matches; Kinsley Gregoria had five. They scored the final 10 points of the first set with Jacksonville on Muncher’s serve.

“We always practice first serves … because coach says that’s our first line of offense,” Muncher said. “I remember we always just served to get the ball in, we didn’t serve to get an ace, and they (Randolph) won state that year. Serving was their first line of offense so … that’s kind of what we’re doing to everybody now.”

The Douglas match was of more importance to the Lady Cubs because it was an area encounter and helped solidify their No. 1 seeding in the upcoming Class 5A Area 13 tournament. But the Jacksonville match was the most emotional and the one everyone came to see.

The Lady Cubs (23-4) and Lady Eagles (17-3) are the second and third seeds, respectively, in the upcoming County Tournament. The win Thursday justified that installation as it was Alexandria’s second win this season over the Lady Eagles.

The first game of their match was tight to start. There were seven ties early, but Alexandria started pulling away from 9-9. The Lady Cubs got the ball back at 15-12, then Muncher served out the set.

The second set was tight early as well, but the Lady Cubs took control with six straight points off Kendal Bumpus’ serve.

“We had moments when we were OK, but they’re very good and can’t play at the level we played at tonight and have an opportunity to beat them,” Jacksonville coach David Clark said. “In that last game we had 11 serve-receive errors. That’s over half the game. That means 11 balls we played on the serve that never went back over the net. You just can’t do that. They’re too good for that.

“We knew coming in they’re a very good serving team, probably the best serving team we played this year, but on the flip side we’ve got to do a better job. There were opportunities to play balls we didn’t handle very well, balls we’ve played before that we didn’t play tonight. It’s the first thing you have to do at a high level to play at a high level.”

Other scores
Jacksonville 2, Douglas 0 (25-14, 25-15)

Handley 3, Saks 2: The Lady Wildcats played the area match without two starters, but the junior varsity players coach Randy Law called up in their stead, setter Hali Brinson and middle Shammerial Garrett, played well.

Sacred Heart 3, Ohatchee 1 (25-10, 25-11, 20-25, 25-17): Ayanna Foster was strong at the net with 11 kills and five blocks.

Wellborn 3, Glencoe 1 (25-18, 21-25, 25-19, 25-11)

(25-10, 25-15, 25-15)
KILLS – Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 5, Aubrey Pope 4, Kendal Bumpus 6, China Lane 4, Mattie Wade 3, Kinsley Gregoria 1, Gracie Muncher 1, Madison Chastain 2, Kyleigh Rhodes 2.
ASSISTS – Alexandria: Gracie Muncher 25.
DIGS – Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 1, Aubrey Pope 4, Kendal Bumpus 3, Mattie Wade 4, Kinsley Gregoria 10, Kaitlin Harvey 4, Gracie Muncher 4, Madison Chastain 2, Kyleigh Rhodes 4.
BLOCKS – Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 1, Kendal Bumpus 3.
ACES – Alexandria: Mattie Wade 1, Kinsley Gregoria 3, Kaitlin Harvey 2, Gracie Muncher 3, Madison Chastain 1.

(25-12, 25-21)
KILLS – Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 13, Aubrey Pope 5, Kendal Bumpus 4, China Lane 1, Gracie Muncher 2.
ASSISTS – Alexandria: Gracie Muncher 21.
DIGS – Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 1, Aubrey Pope 5, Kendal Bumpus 2, Mattie Wade 7, Kinsley Gregoria 8, Kaitlin Harvey 5, Gracie Muncher 6.
BLOCKS – Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 1, Aubrey Pope 1, Kendal Bumpus 2, China Lane 2.
ACES – Alexandria: Kendal Bumpus 2, Mattie Wade 1, Kinsley Gregoria 2, Kaitlin Harvey 1, Gracie Muncher 4.

(25-10, 25-11, 20-25, 25-17)
(Sacred Heart statistics)

Sophia Allen – 12 assists, 5 digs, 1 kill
Jacque Beyerle – 6 digs, 1 kill, 1 ace
Ayanna Foster – 11 kills, 5 blocks, 1 assist, 1 dig
Deborah Greene – 10 digs, 5 aces, 3 assists, 2 kills, 2 blocks
Seanna Johnson – 6 digs
Mary Kate Middlebrook – 3 kills, 2 blocks
Angel Nguyen – 11 digs, 8 kills, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 1 ace
Jumi Sanusi – 13 digs, 8 kills, 1 ace
Jayla Woods – 4 digs, 4 assists, 2 kills, 1 ace

To view a gallery of B.J. Franklin photos from the Jacksonville-Alexandria match, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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