E.A. Sports Today

Passing a test

Pleasant Valley gets ‘critical’ week off to good start, taking down Alexandria in four sets; plays Jacksonville Thursday

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – This is a big week for the Pleasant Valley volleyball team.

The Lady Raiders are the No. 1 seed in this weekend’s Calhoun County Tournament and they get to tune up for it by playing the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the field, knowing the possibility exists they could meet one of them again in the tournament finals Monday night at Jacksonville State.

The way they navigate the gauntlet will do a lot for their confidence as they go into the tournament and beyond. Little wonder, then, PV coach Dana Bryant described the week as “critical.”

The Lady Raiders got the run off to a good start Tuesday, beating second-seeded Alexandria – for the second time this season – 3-1 (25-16, 19-25, 25-15, 25-23). They get third-seeded Jacksonville in a home tri-match with Weaver Thursday.

“Mentally it plays a huge part in what we’re going to face on Saturday,” Bryant said. “First and foremost this week is preparation for regionals.”

The Lady Raiders (32-3) got contributions across the board. Anna Bryant played her usual strong all-around game with 13 kills, 19 assists and 21 digs. Mikayla Kendrick was strong at the net, especially in the first set, with 12 kills and three blocks. Maddie Bentley had 19 digs and Alisa St. John was exceptional, making 29 attacks with zero errors while scoring 12 kills and three aces.

“We were all proud of her, “ Kendrick said. “We were all screaming in the locker room.”

The Lady Raiders started the match strong. They pulled away from a 4-3 game to take an 18-7 lead midway through the set; Kendrick closed it out with kills on the final two points.

Believe it or not, in spite of their record, the Lady Raiders have struggled with their second set all season. The trend continued Tuesday when the Lady Cubs used a 12-1 run behind the serving of Mattie Wade and Aubrey Pope to get back in the match. It the only set PV has lost during its 32 wins this year; they are 77-8 in sets this season..

“We’ve still got to work on Game 2,” Dana Bryant said.

But they didn’t let it become a downward spiral. They bounced back with a similar run of their own in the third set, pulling away from a 7-7 tie with 11 straight points off Anna Bryant’s serve.

“We stayed positive even when we didn’t play good,” Bentley said. “We kept our focus where it needed to be and didn’t get down.”

Neither did Alexandria. The Lady Cubs were in a position to extend the match and by doing so maybe snatch the momentum. They led 17-13 and 21-19 and were serving in a 23-23 tie, but Pleasant Valley pulled out the last two points.

They broke the tie when Savannah Williams and Kendrick denied Alexandria’s Kayleigh Steen on the front line and clinched it when the Lady Cubs returned a volley into the net.

“We had them there and then we made so many errors at the end; we have to finish,” Lady Cubs coach Whitney Welch said. “When you’re ahead and taking it to them you have to learn how to finish. We’re still learning how to do that.

“I think both of us got better coming here and doing this. It was a good match for us to come play. We obviously need some practice time to clean some things up. We’re going to have three good days of practice hopefully and clean some stuff up and hopefully make a run at it.”

(25-16, 19-25, 25-15, 25-23)

KILLS – Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 15, Aubrey Pope 8, Kendal Bumpus 4, Chaina Lane 3, Mattie Wade 2, Gracie Muncher 1; PV: Mikayla Kendrick 12, Blakely Malsy 6, Savannah Williams 4, Anna Bryant 13, Alisa St. John 12.
DIGS – Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 5, Aubrey Pope 4, Kendal Bumpus 4, Mattie Wade 8, Kinsley Gregoria 17, Kaitlin Harvey 8, Gracie Muncher 6; PV: Anna Bryant 21, Mikayla Kendrick 5, Savannah Williams 10, Alisa St. John 12, Madison Bentley 19, Blakely Malsy 1, Rylee Haynes 1, Maggie Hedgepath 9.
ASSISTS – Alexandria: Kendal Bumpus 1, Kinsley Gregoria 1, Gracie Muncher 27; PV: Savannah Williams 11, Anna Bryant 19, Alisa St. John 1.
BLOCKS – Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 4, Kendal Bumpus 2; PV: Anna Bryant 2, Mikayla Kendrick 3, Blakely Malsy 4, Savannah Williams 2, Alisa St. John 2, Rylee Haynes 1.
ACES – Alexandria: Aubrey Pope 3, Mattie Wade 1, Kinsley Gregoria 1; PV: Mikayla Kendrick 1, Blakely Malsy 1, Anna Bryant 2, Madison Bentley 1, Alisa St. John 3.

On the cover: Pleasant Valley’s Anna Bryant and Mikayla Kendrick (7). Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos.

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