E.A. Sports Today

Finally, in finals

Alexandria reaches county volleyball finals for first time since 2011, looking to win its first title since 2001

Alexandria’s Aubrey Pope follows through on a shot across the net in Saturday’s county tournament semifinal against Faith Christian. Pope had two big matches for the Lady Cubs. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

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By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – It’s been a while since Alexandria played in the finals of the Calhoun County volleyball tournament. Not 29-cents-a-gallon while, but long enough to not want to miss another year. The only reason coach Whitney Welch remembered just how long is because it came in a year the Lady Cubs played in the state championship match.

The Lady Cubs have been talking about playing for the ultimate bragging rights in the county for years, but always seemed to come up short.

Last year Pleasant Valley kept them from playing for the crown, ending their run in the semifinals. The Lady Raiders stand in their way again, but this time it’s in Monday’s winner-take-all title match at Jacksonville State the Lady Cubs have wanted so much to be a part of.

To view a gallery of photos from this match visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Alexandria earned a spot in the finals for the first time since 2011 Saturday when it finally got through the semifinals by beating Faith Christian in straight sets 25-17, 25-14, 25-14. And oh what a relief it was.

“I think it’s meaningful, I’m excited about it,” Welch said. “We’ve been talking about playing in it for a few years and we couldn’t get it done last year. We still had a great year last year but they wanted to play in that game and we couldn’t get it done.

“I’m excited for them because we need to play on a stage like that, No. 1, because it does good for Pleasant Valley and us to do it now because we’re going to see that later, hopefully. So, it’s really good for us and I’m excited because it’s going to make us a lot better.”

“I think it’s a great honor to be a part of the finals on Monday,” front-liner Taylor Spradley said.

The Lady Cubs last won the county in 2001 (when they beat PV two sets to one) but they’ve been able to get past the semis only three times since — 2003, 2006 and 2011. Last year PV put them out 3-1. The year before it was Oxford 3-0.

“I’m really happy we’ve finally gotten there,” setter Gracie Muncher said. “We’ve played for the state championship and the area championship and the regional final, we kind of skipped over the county, so it’s like sometimes we kind of overlook it, but I’m excited we’re finally going to get to play. We’ve been wanting to play in it for a while.”

It will be no easy task. The Lady Raiders are 36-3, 19-1 against county competition and have beaten the Lady Cubs twice – as recently as Tuesday.

To a man, they know they’ll have to play better than they did Saturday. While they turned in several strong individual performances in their two victories on the day, it’ll take a little more on the big stage.

“We’re going to have to play good defense to stay in it,” Welch said. “I feel like we play really good defense. We’re on the way to great sometimes, not today, but a lot this year we have been, so we’re going to have to step that up a notch and we’re going to have to block well, too, but mainly pass, stay in the system and play defense. I think we can play a lot better (than they did Saturday).”

“We need to be smarter as a team,” Spradley added. “When we played Faith tonight we didn’t play our best but we fought and wanted to win and we hustled. I think hustle in Monday night’s game will be the key.”

Individually, Aubrey Pope had a monster day for the Lady Cubs. She had 13 kills, two aces and eight digs against Faith, a team-high 27 kills, four aces and 22 digs in the two victories. Spradley had 11 kills against Faith and Muncher, who recently committed to Snead State, handed out 34 assists.

“In my heart today was the best day I’ve played, but I think we all just came together as a team,” Pope said. “It wasn’t just me, it was all of us. We all had a role. I feel like we’re coming back for what we really want as a team.”

The sixth-seeded Lady Lions reached the semifinals by beating Donoho and then pulling off the upset of the tournament by stunning third-seeded Jacksonville on the Lady Eagles own floor, 17-25, 25-20, 25-23, 27-25.

They tried to stay with the Lady Cubs, but expended so much energy in the Jacksonville match they didn’t have a lot left in the tank for the quick turnaround that was the final match of the day.

Taylor Spradley is poised to play anything that comes over the net in Saturday’s semifinal match with Faith Christian. Spradley called it a “great honor” to be part of Monday’s county tournament finals. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

(25-17, 25-14, 25-14)
KILLS – Faith: Nicole Frechette 7, Emily Sills 1, Montana Huie 2, S.J. Christjohn 2, Zana Christjohn 1, Abby Kazanjian 1, Sydnee Johnson 3; Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 11, Aubrey Pope 13, Kendal Bumpus 7, China Lane 9, Gracie Muncher 2, Madison Chastain 1.
ASSISTS – Faith: Nicole Frechette 2, Erin Cheek 15; Alexandria: Mattie Wade 3, Gracie Muncher 34.
ACES – S.K. McVeigh 1, Erin Cheek 1, Sydnee Johnson 2; Alexandria: Aubrey Pope 2, Mattie Wade 1, Kinsley Gregoria 3, Kaitlin Harvey 2, Gracie Muncher 2.
DIGS – Faith: Nicole Frechette 2, Emily Sills 1, S.J. Christjohn 2, Abby Kazanjian 11, Erin Cheek 4, Sydnee Johnson 1; Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 2, Aubrey Pope 8, Kendal Bumpus 1, China Lane 2, Mattie Wade 11, Kinsley Gregoria 12, Kaitlin Harvey 5, Gracie Muncher 4, Kyleigh Rhodes 1.
BLOCKS – Faith: Montana Huie 2, S.J. Christjohn 1, Zana Christjohn 2, Sydnee Johnson 1; Alexandria: Taylor Spradley 2, Kendal Bumpus 4, China Lane 3.

(Alexandria 2-match combined stats)
(Def. Wellborn 3-0, def. Faith 3-0)

KILLS – Taylor Spradley 24, Aubrey Pope 27, Kendal Bumpus 13, China Lane 11, Gracie Muncher 3, Madison Chastain 1.
ASSISTS – Kendal Bumpus 1, Mattie Wade 4, Kinsley Gregoria 1, Kaitlin Harvey 1, Gracie Muncher 64.
ACES – Aubrey Pope 4, Kendal Bumpus 3, Mattie Wade 3, Kinsley Gregoria 5, Kaitlin Harvey 3, Gracie Muncher 5.
DIGS – Taylor Spradley 4, Aubrey Pope 22, Kendal Bumpus 5, China Lane 4, Mattie Wade 22, Kinsley Gregoria 19, Kaitlin Harvey 12, Gracie Muncher 6, Kyleigh Rhodes 1.
BLOCKS – Taylor Spradley 5, Kendal Bumpus 7, China Lane 5.

(Faith 3-match combined stats)
(Def. Donoho 3-0, def. Jacksonville 3-1, lost to Alexandria 3-0)
KILLS – Faith: Nicole Frechette 23, Emily Sills 6, Montana Huie 2, S.J. Christjohn 3, Zana Christjohn 13, Abby Kazanjian 2, Erin Cheek 1, Sydnee Johnson 18.
ASSISTS – Faith: Nicole Frechette 3, Abby Kazanjian 2, Erin Cheek 58, Sydnee Johnson 1.
ACES – S.K. McVeigh 3, Nicole Frechette 2, Emily Sills 5, Erin Cheek 4, Sydnee Johnson 8.
DIGS – Faith: S.K. McVeigh 3, Nicole Frechette 11, Emily Sills 6, S.J. Christjohn 9, Abby Kazanjian 45, Erin Cheek 12, Sydnee Johnson 6.
BLOCKS – Faith: Nicole Frechette 1, Montana Huie 7, S.J. Christjohn 3, Zana Christjohn 3, Sydnee Johnson 5.

Faith Christian’s bench watches the action unfold in their semifinal loss to Alexandria. The Lady Lions scored the upset of the tournament when they stunned third-seeded Jacksonville in the quarterfinals. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

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