E.A. Sports Today

Like a rock

Lady Cubs complete their unfinished business, win state title that eluded them last year

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM — The call to claim their prize was coming but it was all the players could do to wait for it. They were holding each other back from jumping the gun so they could all cross the floor together.

Of course, they were excited. This was 22 years in the making.

Alexandria finished the business it left behind a year ago, overwhelming Lawrence County 3-0 for the Class 5A state championship, and couldn’t wait to claim their prize.

The scores were 25-23, 25-16, 25-13.

When they were introduced as state champions, for the first time since 1995, the Lady Cubs rushed the table to collect the blue trophy that eluded their grasp the year before.

“They decided to do whatever it took to get back and they did that,” Lady Cubs coach Whitney Welch said. “We were here last year and got beat 3-0 by St. Paul’s and ever since then I felt like this bunch has worked and worked and worked tirelessly to get back to today. They had something to prove today and it showed on the floor.

“I knew they had it in them. I knew we had the talent. They were a close-knit group. I hope they know getting back to the championship two years in a row is so hard to do. I’m just so proud they were able to finish.”

It was a dominating win for a coach who didn’t set out to be a teacher/coach and continued a winning tradition at her alma mater she played a part in rooted in a Bible story.

The team went to church together right before the Calhoun County Tournament and heard the story of how David slew Goliath by confidently slinging his stones. It was a story that spoke and stuck to them.

The Lady Cubs (44-9) carried three stones with them into the Elite 8, wrote the name of each opponent they faced on them and slayed them all — Rehobeth, St. Paul’s and Lawrence County — in straight sets. None was a bigger giant than Lawrence County (59-5), which beat them 3–0 in the regional finals Saturday.

“Before every game we would say sling that rock, like David did,” senior setter Gracie Muncher said. “The coaches would hand them to us before the first game and we knew what it meant because they kept telling us sling the rock. They kept telling us our biggest Goliath was ourselves. Even last year when we played St. Paul’s I don’t believe they were our Goliath. I think we were.”

The stones they used were backyard variety, brought to them by the son of Lady Cubs assistant coach Kelli Johnson (a player on that 1995 state title team). The players kept them on the bench during each match, passing them around to rub for luck.

All three were going to go with the blue trophy in the display case, but somehow the Lawrence County rock got lost in the celebration.

The drive to make up for what was lost last year was strong in the Lady Cubs. They say it was brought up in some form virtually every day during the season. Once they got control of the match and could see the prize in front of them there was no letting up.

They opened a 24-16 lead in the first set, then held off a Lawrence County charge. The second set was never in doubt and the match was basically over after the Lady Cubs opened a 10-3 lead in the third.

“We were dominant,” Welch said. “Sometimes it’s just meant to be. I felt like we had a lot of calls go our way too and that has not happened throughout the course of this season. Of course it takes talent and hard work, but it also takes a little luck to get your there and to win the whole thing.

“We weren’t lucky this week. Everything was flowing smoothly in every set that we played. It was one of those things that was meant to be and they really competed every point. They were hungry and it showed. It was nice to sweep it.”

Taylor Spradley had 20 kills in the final, giving her 59 in the three matches here, and was named tournament MVP. Senior setter Gracie Muncher, who didn’t play in the regional final due to thumb injury, Mattie Wade and Aubrey Pope were all named all-tournament. Pope had 14 kills in the match, including the clincher. Muncher had 40 assists in the final and finished her career with 3,294 for her career.

“After last year we knew what we had to do,” Spradley said. “We had some unfinished business. We had to take care of business today and we did that. … With a great coach this is what happens.”

(25-23, 25-16, 25-13)
KILLS – Alexandria: Gracie Muncher 1, Kendal Bumpus 4, Aubrey Pope 14, Mattie Wade 3, China Lane 5, Taylor Spradley 20; Lawrence County: Savannah Graham 11, Lauren Mayes 12, Laekyn Bennett 1, Braydee Scott 2, Lexi Heidt 1, Alley Cross.
ASSISTS – Alexandria: Gracie Muncher 40, Kendal Bumpus 1, Mattie Wade 2, Kinsley Gregoria 1; Lawrence County: Savannah Graham 1, Lauren Mayes 1, Laekyn Bennett 23.
ACES – Alexandria: Kendal Bumpus 2, Mattie Wade 1; Lawrence County: Sami Parker 1.
DIGS – Alexandria: Gracie Muncher 2, Kendal Bumpus 6, Aubrey Pope 8, Mattie Wade 18, China Lane 1, Kinsley Gregoria 12, Kaitlin Harvey 10, Taylor Spradley 1; Lawrence County: Savannah Graham 5, Lauren Mayes 4, Laekyn Bennett 5, Braydee Scott 3, Lexi Heidt 2, Moesha McDaniel 9, Macy Montgomery 8, Sami Parker 13.
BLOCKS – Alexandria: Mattie Wade 1; Lawrence County: Braydee Scott 1.

Lawrence County –
Savannah Graham, Lauren Mayes.
Alexandria – Gracie Muncher, Aubrey Pope, Mattie Wade, Taylor Spradley (MVP).

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