E.A. Sports Today

Words to win by

Pleasant Valley plays to the spirit of its two slogans, sweeps Weaver, Glencoe to win 14th straight area volleyball title; Saks shocks South, Oxford advances

Pleasant Valley’s Blakely Malsy blasts a shot back to Piedmont during the Lady Raiders’ area tournament semifinal match Monday. (All photos by Christa Harris)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – The Pleasant Valley volleyball team has had two sets of words to live by this season.

“Pull the cord” and “Be a firefighter.”

The first is a reference to playing fearlessly, the way they approach going on the Sky Coaster at Six Flags. The second is about what you’d think – complete with a novelty T-shirt – keep the fire on your end of the floor and put the fire out on the other.

Pleasant Valley’s tournament MVP Savannah Williams (10) delivers a kill against Piedmont.

The Lady Raiders lived by those words Monday, sweeping Piedmont and Glencoe to win their 14th straight area volleyball championship and advance to the Class 3A North Regionals in Huntsville.

They beat Piedmont 25-8, 25-17, 25-12 and took down Glencoe in the title game 25-16, 25-21, 25-8. Glencoe earned its spot in the regionals with a 3-1 victory over Weaver.

The Lady Raiders were among six Calhoun County teams advancing to regional play Monday. See all the results and first-round regional match-ups for area tournaments involving Calhoun County teams in the “Road to Birmingham” feature elsewhere on the website.

PV coach Dana Bryant delivered the mottos to her players early in the season and they’ve been trying to live by them ever since.

“On the Sky Coaster they strap you in and reel you to the top,” Bryant said. “There’s a cord and you have to rip the cord and it’s a free fall all the way down, but if you’re too scared to rip the cord you never experience the thrill of the ride.

“It takes a lot of courage to do it. That’s been our goal this season – to pull the cord, to lay it all out there. I told them if you ever play with everything you’ve got, you’ll never play any other way. Once you experience the thrill of playing with everything in you, with excitement and energy and heart, you won’t ever want to play any other way.”

“After she told us about pull the cord, I just go after everything that I can,” said senior hitter Blakely Malsy, who has experienced the rush of the Sky Coaster before. “I don’t hesitate as much as I used to.”

Teammate Savannah Williams hasn’t been on the Sky Coaster, but she gets the concept and went for it Monday. She had 14 kills and 12 digs in the championship match against Glencoe, 29 kills and 21 digs in the tournament, and was named tournament MVP.

“I’ve played all year trying to do my best, going all out for anything trying to get ready for regionals and state,” Williams said.

The Lady Raiders had plenty of candidates for MVP, but ultimately Bryant put the call in the hands of the players. In addition to Williams, Malsy had 18 kills in the championship game and 30 kills, four aces and 23 digs in the two matches. Rylee Haynes had 52 total assists and 19 digs. And Maggie Hedgepath had 25 digs.

“It was a coin toss, but I let the team decide who they thought was MVP,” Bryant said. “In my eyes it could have been Savannah, it could have been Blakely, it could have been Maggie; all three of them played lights out today.”

All three made the all-tournament team and they were joined by teammate Karmyn Sparks, Piedmont’s Sydney Prater and Rebecca Smart; Weaver’s Amira Carter and McKenna Flynn, and Glencoe’s Lauren Cole, Aubrey Gray, Hannah Baker and Evan Burns.

Glencoe qualified for the regionals for the first time in three years and the first time under second-year coach Jamie Barkley by using a little encouragement from the coach and block party to rally from losing the first set to beat Weaver.

The Lady Jackets had 30 blocks against the Lady Bearcats, 12 by sophomore Kaylee Knight and 11 by Lexi Gray. Evan Burns had 19 kills and Aubrey Gray had 13.

“That was the difference in that ballgame,” Barkley said.

The turning point for the Lady Jackets, though, came in the middle of the first set when Barkley called time with her team trailing 13-10. They weren’t able to pull out the set, but it established their mindset for the rest of the match.

“I looked at them and said, ‘OK, now that you’ve got that out of your system let’s go to Huntsville,’” she said. “The last three sets … that’s the way we played all season; we didn’t do that in the first set. We were nervous, we were discombobulated – that’s a word I use they think is absolutely crazy – and we were going to settle that back down and play our brand of volleyball, and they did.”

(25-16, 25-21, 25-8)
KILLS – PV: Savannah Williams 14, Blakely Malsy 18, Karmyn Sparks 6, Leah Patterson 1, Mattie Glass 1, Rylee Haynes 2. Glencoe: Lauren Cole 7, Aubrey Gray 6, Taylor Russell 1, Hannah Baker 1, Evan Burns 4, Kaylee Knight 2, Lexi Gray 2.
ASSISTS – PV: Mattie Glass 1, Rylee Haynes 31. Glencoe: Lauren Cole 10, Hannah Baker 11.
ACES – PV: Blakely Malsy 3, Leah Patterson 1, Maggie Hedgepath 3. Glencoe: Lauren Cole 2, Evan Burns 1.
DIGS – PV: Savannah Williams 12, Blakely Malsy 16, Leah Patterson 6, Madison Borders 1, Mattie Glass 2, Rylee Haynes 14, Maggie Hedgepath 19, Allie Bryant 4. Glencoe: Lauren Cole 1, Aubrey Gray 5, Hannah Baker 7, Evan Burns 8, Kaylee Knight 1, Adriana Bethel 4, Kinslee Gray 1, Courtney Craven 1.
BLOCKS – PV: Blakely Malsy 1, Karmyn Sparks 3, Leah Patterson 2, Madison Borders 1. Glencoe: Lauren Cole 3, Kaylee Knight 5, Lexi Gray 6.

Sydney Prater, Piedmont; Rebecca Smart, Piedmont; Amira Carter, Weaver; McKenna Flynn, Weaver; Lauren Cole, Glencoe; Aubrey Gray, Glencoe; Hannah Baker, Glencoe; Evan Burns, Glencoe; Karmyn Sparks, Pleasant Valley; Maggie Hedgepath, Pleasant Valley; Blakely Malsy, Pleasant Valley; Savannah Williams, Pleasant Valley (MVP).

Glencoe’s Kaylee Knight (30) goes up to block Weaver’s McKenna Flynn. The Lady Jackets had 30 blocks in the match.

Saks shocks South

The match was over for a couple hours and first-year Saks coach Allison Feazell still was a little shocked about what took place.

The Lady Wildcats won the Class 3A Area 8 championship with wins over Randolph County (3-0) and top-seeded host Wellborn (3-2), and are on their way to the South Regional in Mongtomery in a better position than most might’ve expected.

“I know I’m sitting here and still a little shocked,” she said.

The Lady Wildcats came out on fire in the championship match against a team that had beaten them twice in the regular season and roared to a 25-7 win in the first set. Wellborn won the next two, but Saks won the fourth 25-15 to force the tiebreaker and then won it 15-10.

“To tell you the truth I think we caught Wellborn off guard,” Feazell said. “I think they weren’t expecting us to come out guns a-blazin’. I knew a little bit from practice one or two of my seniors were like, ‘We’re going to win this.’ They brought it and started off strong.”

Seniors Izzy Shaver and Keira Burks were particularly strong. All the Lady Wildcats (18-24) had to do was get past Randolph County and they going to the South Regional in Montgomery, but they wanted more.

“I said, ‘Look, we’re going because we beat them, but I don’t know about y’all, but I want this area championship,’ and they were like, ‘I do, too,’” Feazell said. “But it’s up to you. We’re already in you’ve got to show what you want. Do you want this or are we just happy to go to the regionals? They stepped up.”

Oxford advances

ALBERTVILLE – The Lady Jackets made it to the VonBraun Center by sweeping past Fort Payne in their area’s 2/3 game, 3-0. They lost in the area championship match to Albertville 3-1.

(def. Fort Payne 3-0, lost to Albertville 3-1)
KILLS – Alanah Zimmerman 2, Tanyia McDonald 15, Lakijah Brown 24, Kiki Woods 2, Shania Vincent 10, Emma Connell 4, Aametria Wilson 1, Aumaria Lindsey 16.
ASSISTS – Deinnah Isaac 1, Tanyia McDonald 5, Emma Connell 64, Aametria Wilson 1, Aumaria Lindsey 9.
ACES – Deinnah Isaac 1, Tanyia McDonald 3, Emma Connell 4, Eilee Sparks 1.
DIGS – Deinnah Isaac 18, Alanah Zimmerman 22, Tanyia McDonald 21, Lakijah Brown 6, Shania Vincent 1, Emma Connell 12, Aametria Wilson 11, Aumaria Lindsey 4, Eilee Sparks 12.
BLOCKS – Shania Vincent 1, Emma Connell 1.

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