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Saks, Oxford both stage dramatic rallies to win area titles; Lady Jackets head to Huntsville, while Saks heads South

By East Alabama Sports Today

The Saks volleyball team got an unexpected bye into the regional tournament and it might have affected its play early in the Class 4A Area 8 championship match, but the Lady Wildcats found a way to turn it around before it was too late.

Saks rallied from losing the first two sets to beat Handley 3-2 for its second straight area championship. The Lady Wildcats haven’t fared well in tiebreaker sets this season, but got the clincher Monday night 15-11.

They’ll play Region 4 runner-up Alabama Christian in their South regional opener 12:45 p.m. Thursday at the Cramton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery.

The top-seeded Lady Wildcats (30-14) drew a pass into the regional when fourth-seeded Anniston failed to arrive at the gym. Saks coach Randy Law said Anniston administrators confirmed receiving the tournament bracket, but the Lady Dawgs’ coaches weren’t aware of the matches.

Handley filled the championship bracket by taking down Munford 3-0.

The Lady Tigers had Saks down 25-14, 25-18, but the Lady Wildcats rallied to win the third 25-18, the fourth 25-23 to tie the match and then took the tiebreaker after falling behind 9-3. They had lost 11 tiebreaker sets during the season.

“The first two games we played lousy; I asked them, ‘have we played volleyball before,’” Law said. “We came out trying not to lose instead of playing to win and that’s when you make mistakes, and we made a bunch.

“But they don’t quit. They kept battling. They’ve got that good characteristic. I kept waiting for them to pull out of it because they’ve done it so much this year and finally they did.”

LaMonica Noel led the Lady Wildcats with 27 kills and 12 digs. Madison Tate had 10 kills and four blocks. Freshman Sa’Nya Fleming had six kills. Keira Burks had 18 digs and sophomore setter Hali Brinson had 48 assists.

OXFORD 3, SOUTHSIDE 2: The Lady Jackets (20-23) rallied from a two sets to one deficit and needed a late flurry to extend the match before winning the tiebreaker convincingly for their fifth straight area championship and 11th in 12 years.

Oxford won the first set 26-24, but dropped the next two 25-16, 25-17. The Lady Jackets’ fortunes turned when setter Emma Connell returned to the floor in the fourth set. She helped the Jackets grab a 22-19 lead, but Southside fought back to tie it. Makayla Kidd’s kill put them back in front and they went on to it it 25-22 to even the match.

The Yellow Jackets, who already had a spot in the regional by winning the three-team area regular-season title, won the tiebreaker 15-6.

Connell had 19 assists in the match; starter Deinnah Isaac had 31. Kidd and Shania Vincent had 16 kills apiece – 11 combined in the fourth set — and Alex Gomez had 11 kills. Kidd also had 33 digs. Alex Hammond had 26 digs and four aces.

Oxford, the Area 13 champion, plays Area 10 runnerup Homewood (19-21) in its regional opener, while Southside (30-19) plays area champ Ramsay (29-14). Both matches are 9 a.m. Thursday.

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