E.A. Sports Today

Don’t count ’em out

Lady Jackets play inspired volleyball in knocking off Jacksonville team seeded ahead of them in the county tournament

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – The Calhoun County Volleyball Tournament doesn’t start until Saturday, but the battle Oxford and Jacksonville waged Tuesday night was as intense as any of the tournament finals they’ve played over the years.

It was just a regular-season matchup in early October between the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds in the upcoming tournament, one of three matches on Showdown Tuesday between the top six tournament seeds, but try telling them that.

The Lady Jackets played like a team with something to prove and beat the higher-seeded Golden Eagles in five sets. They bounced back from losing the first set and later failing to close it out in the fourth to win the tiebreaker 15-11 and claim what coach Wendy McKibbin readily admitted was their biggest victory of the season. The set scores were 19-25, 25-18, 25-20, 24-26, 15-11.

“The kids played really well today; they played great from point one in the first set to the last point,” McKibbin said. “The effort was there, they played together, they had fun; they played hard. I’m proud of them. It wasn’t just one person, it was a team effort.”

The Lady Jackets (14-16) had a lot of motivation to play well against their county rivals. They were installed as the No. 4 seed behind the Golden Eagles when the coaches met two weeks ago to put the field together.

Winning their final match before the tournament not only would give them a measure of revenge from an earlier loss to the Golden Eagles, it would, Alex Gomez said, give them a chance to show the county “how they messed us up with the seeding.”

“It was important to get this win to prove where we should be in the county,” senior Makayla Kidd said. “Before the game coach gave us a challenge to come out and prove to people what Oxford is. Our game (Monday) night against Donoho was real close, so we needed to prove that Oxford was somebody and we came to play.”

“I think it showed we have what it takes to compete,” Emma Connell said. “We’re seeded fourth, yeah, but we can be No. 1 and we have what it takes. I think people think we’re not ready, like they’re just going to beat us easily, but we came out tonight and played our game and showed that we can play. We didn’t bring it last night. We brought it tonight.”

Oxford played inspired volleyball from the second set on, sustaining spirited rallies and, as Kidd noted, “getting balls up there we didn’t even know we could get to.”

The Lady Jackets took the upper hand in the match by winning the second and third sets, but the Golden Eagles refused to yield. The Lady Jackets appeared to have the match locked up in the fourth set and were serving match point, but Jacksonville closed with an 8-1 run, staving off three match points, to extending their night.

They tied the set at 24 on an overruled tipped ball and won it on a kill by Elizabeth Poe. Oxford jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the decisive fifth set and never lost the lead.

“The end of Game 4 I was pleased (with) because we’ve been in that situation in the past week and didn’t respond as well,” Jacksonville coach David Clark said. “That’s a positive to see that response, but not being able to carry it over into the next one (is discouraging).”

The Golden Eagles will have a chance to bounce back before the tournament in a tri-match with Weaver and No. 1 tournament seed Pleasant Valley Thursday.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to see where we are against a really good team and that’s what we need right now,” Clark said. “I’m interested to see our response. I don’t think we’ve been very good at all for a week. We changed some things in practice, maybe it’ll help and we’ll keep looking for the answer, but until we control the ball on a high level then it’s not going to make a difference who we’re playing.”

(19-25, 25-18, 25-20, 24-26, 15-11)

KILLS – Oxford: Alex Hammond 3, Alex Gomez 8, Makayla Kidd 5, Tanyia McDonald 5, Kiki Woods 3, Shania Vincent 5, Emma Connell 5, Deinnah Isaac 1; Jacksonville: Elizabeth Poe 15, Aniyah Robinson 5, Michelle Wyckoff 9, Brianna Stone 8, Brooke Murphy 4.
DIGS – Oxford: Alex Hammond 25, Alex Gomez 12, Makayla Kidd 24, Tanyia McDonald 4, Kiki Woods 2, Shania Vincent 4, Emma Connell 9, Eilee Sparks 1, Deinnah Isaac 5, Kaylee Sanders 8; Jacksonville: Elizabeth Poe 1, Rachel Underhill 4, Mallory Bell 1.
ASSISTS – Oxford: Alex Hammond 2, Makayla Kidd 1, Kiki Woods 2, Emma Connell 26, Deinnah Isaac 1.
BLOCKS – Oxford: Alex Gomez 1, Tanyia McDonald 2, Kiki Woods 2, Shania Vincent 5; Jacksonville: Elizabeth Poe 3, Aniyah Jefferson 7, Kayla Broom 4, Brianna Stone 1.
ACES – Oxford: Makayla Kidd 2, Shania Vincent 1, Emma Connell 3, Deinnah Isaac 2, Kaylee Sanders 3; Jacksonville: Elizabeth Poe 1, Aniyah Jefferson 1, Michelle Wyckoff 1, Rachel Underhill 1, Mallory Bell 2.

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