E.A. Sports Today

Faith bounces back

Lady Lions rebound from regional semifinals loss to sweep Meek and claim No. 3 seed from North heading to 1A Elite Eight

Faith Christian’s Zana Christjohn (13) is challenged by Meek’s Emma Fincher (22) and Montana Barton but puts the point away. (All photos by Tony Bedford)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

HUNTSVILLE — Nicole Frechette and Zana Christjohn are really big fans of Halloween, but they are more than willing to give up a little trick-or-treating for the experience of winning a state championship.

The two Faith Christian seniors helped the Lady Lions bounce back from a disappointing regional semifinals match to sweep Meek 25-14, 25-22, 25-18 Saturday and claim the No. 3 seed from 1A North heading into next week’s state championship round at the Birmingham Crossplex.

The Lady Lions (32-11) will play South runner-up Westminster-Oak Mountain (24-7) Wednesday at 2 p.m. If they win there, they’ll return at 7:30 – prime trick-or-treating time – to play either Brantley or North champion Athens Bible (43-10) for a spot in Thursday’s 6:30 state title match.

“Heck yeah I want to give up my Halloween, yes,” Frechette said. “I love Halloween, I love trick-or-treating, but State is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and there is no way I would ever give that up for some candy.”

“No question about it,” said Christjohn, who used to dress up every Halloween until she started playing sports. “I would give that up no problem. This is it, this is the senior year, this is our last chance for a lot of us on the team. This is all we got.”

Last year’s finals fell on Nov. 1, but the teams needed to be there the night before so Jacksonville and Alexandria spent Halloween in the big city trick-or-treating with each other. The Lady Lions are the only Calhoun County team left in the tournament and they’ll have to be in Birmingham the night before and play on the holiday so they’ll probably watch a scary movie together in the team hotel.

“But not too scary a movie,” head coach Justin Kisor cautioned. “We don’t want them to have nightmares.”

It was a pretty sweet treat the way the Lady Lions played against Meek (30-25) compared to the cruel trick that played out in their five-set loss to Lindsay Lane (45-11) in the morning. It was the difference between finding a Snickers bar in your bag and getting a rock, Charlie Brown.

They jumped out to a 13-3 lead in the opening set against Meek, lagged a little in the middle and then pulled away again after the Lady Tigers got close. They were down early in the second set, but took the lead for good mid-set. The third set followed the same pattern as the first, with ultimately the same result.

Frechette had 19 kills and 11 digs in the match, while Zana Christjohn and Sydnee Johnson had eight each. Sarah Jessica Christjohn had five digs, five blocks and five aces, and Erin Cheek had 39 assists.

“I think we just realized how hard we had to play when you’re at this level,” Zana Christjohn said. “It’s not easy teams; you have to stay focused the whole time. That was our biggest issue, staying focused on every single point. We would do good things one time and then we would just let it all go because we would relax.

“That’s always been our biggest thing, staying focused on every single point and that’s what we did better in the second game than the first one.”

The Lady Lions missed several chances to take control of the match with Lindsay Lane but lost 25-21, 12-25, 26-24, 20-25, 15-7 through an agonizing series of unforced errors.

They were leading in the third set 24-20, then didn’t score another point. They bounced back to force a fifth-set tiebreaker and were leading it 2-0 and 3-2, but Lindsay Lane went on a seven-point run to take control.

They brought it back with kills from Frechette, Johnson and Zana Christjohn, but Emily Sills’ return was a tad long of the baseline and Lindsay Lane scored five of the next six points to close it out. The only saving grace is that losing this one didn’t eliminate them.

“Is all we want to do is just get here,” Kisor said after the match. “Was that just our plan to get here?

“I don’t want to be satisfied with just being here today. I want to win. I want to play the best we can play. I know you’re going to have off games, but our effort and our communication should never change. Hopefully this wakes them up.”

It did and now they have confidence to go all the way – even if it means missing out on a little fun.

“I’m confident our parents will be out there buying us some candy anyways, because they’re good like that,” Frechette said. “They’ll make it a Halloween even if we don’t get to go out.”

(lost to Lindsay Lane 3-2, def. Meek 3-0)
KILLS – Erin Cheek 1, Nicole Frechette 36, Zana Christjohn 26, Sydnee Johnson 14, Emily Sills 8, S.J. Christjohn 7.
ASSISTS – Erin Cheek 82, Zana Christjohn 2.
ACES – Abby Kazanjian 2, Nicole Frechette 1, Erin Cheek 1, Emily Sills 1, S.J. Christjohn 6, S.K. McVeigh 1.
DIGS – Abby Kazanjian 33, Erin Cheek 10, Nicole Frechette 18, Zana Christjohn 4, Sydnee Johnson 1, Emily Sills 15, S.J. Christjohn 7, S.K. McVeigh 7.
BLOCKS – Erin Cheek 5, Nicole Frechette 1, Zana Christjohn 2, Sydnee Johnson 6, Emily Sills 1, S.J. Christjohn 11.

Determined to have a better showing than the first match of the day, Faith’s Nicole Frechette (2) scored 19 kills and 11 digs against Meek.

Sydnee Johnson goes high to put a shot away against Meek.

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