E.A. Sports Today

Must win

White Plains rallies to beat Cherokee County to avoid area No. 4, caps clutch week; county tournament schedule

White Plains’ Gracie Morgan gently drops one of match’s final kills over the net.

Thursday’s matches
Alexandria 3, Ramsay 1 (25-22, 22-25, 26-24, 25-16)
Faith Christian at Spring Garden
Gaylesville 2, JCA 0 (25-22, 25-15)
Jacksonville 3, Hokes Bluff 0
JCA 2, Gaston 0 (25-22, 25-13)
Oxford 3, Pleasant Valley 0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-17)
Weaver 3, Glencoe 0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-14)
Wellborn 3, Randolph County 0
White Plains 3, Cherokee County 1 (19-25, 25-18, 25-14, 26-24)
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
White Plains volleyball coach Katie Burgess watched her team play its two best matches of the season when it needed to the most.
If the Lady Wildcats were going to make their road to the Class 4A regionals in Huntsville easier they had to beat Hokes Bluff and Cherokee County in their final two area matches this week. They took down Hokes Bluff Tuesday and finished the job Thursday night with a 3-1 victory over Cherokee County.
While the two wins don’t guarantee a trip to Huntsville, they did make the road a little easier. Had they lost Thursday, they would have had to play top-seeded host Jacksonville in the first round of the 4A Area 10 tournament. Now, they get Hokes Bluff, a team they beat 3-1 Tuesday night, in the 2-3 matchup for the regional bid.
“We had a lot of lot pressure on us knowing we had to win against Cherokee County and Hokes Bluff,” outside hitter Gracie Morgan said, “so we really had regionals on our minds in this. That was a big encouragement for us.”
It wasn’t easy by any means, but the Lady Wildcats showed a lot of spunk. They dropped the first set after losing control of it midway through 25-19. But bounced back to dominate each of the next two, jumping out early in each and winning 25-18 and 25-14, then rallied from down 15-10 and 23-21 to clinch the match 26-24.
“Nobody wanted to go to five,” Morgan said. “That was a big (motivator). We had to end it in four.”
Morgan led White Plains with 17 kills (including its last four of the match), 14 digs and two blocks. Kassidy Ledbetter had 15 kills, Allison Arenth eight kills, Emma Ponder four aces, Reece Roberts 19 assists and Natalie Pinto 25 assists.
“I think that was some of the best teamwork we’ve had all season,” Morgan said. “In the end everybody wanted it, everybody was willing to fight for it. There were bodies diving all over the floor.”
Burgess agreed these last two matches were two of the best her team had played all season because of the energy it showed on the floor. After muddling through the first set, they jumped out to leads of 11-2 and 17-7 in the second to tie the match and 12-5 and 20-7 in the second to take the upper hand.
The fourth set went back and forth. White Plains jumped out 5-0, but Cherokee County rallied to get back within 7-6. The Lady Warriors later zipped off nine straight points to take a 15-10 lead, but White Plains answered back with a 8-1 run to retake the lead 18-16.
A close point in the deep right corner gave Cherokee County a 20-18 lead, but it also ramped up the White Plains’ student section. The Lady Wildcats fed off that energy to take a 21-20 lead. Cherokee County went back up 23-21 and was serving, but a long serve and a Morgan kill tied it at 23.
Another Morgan kill put White Plains up 24-23, Cherokee County retied it and Morgan killed the next two balls to seal the match.
“It’s been a matter of being more intense than any other team and fighting harder than any other team,” Burgess said. “It’s been a matter of having more heart and energy. The girls play much better when the energy is on the court. Having that has helped us win these last two matches.
“What this showed is they can play under pressure, one, and they can play when it’s tight, too, and also they have a fighting spirit and that’s what they need to get where we need to go.”

White Plains 3, Cherokee County 1
KILLS – White Plains: Reece Roberts 1, Natalie Pinto 2, Emma Ponder 2, Allison Arenth 8, Lily Ponder 2, Gracie Morgan 17, Ashlyn Cryer 4, Kassidy Ledbetter 14.
ASSISTS – White Plains: Reece Roberts 19, Natalie Pinto 25, Kassidy Ledbetter 1.
ACES – White Plains: Reece Roberts 2, Emma Ponder 4, Gracie Morgan 2, Kassidy Ledbetter 2.
DIGS – White Plains: Reece Roberts 5, Peyton Helms 10, Emma Ponder 3, Allison Arenth 3, Lily Ponder 2, Gracie Morgan 14, Ashlyn Cryer 3, Kassidy Ledbetter 2.
BLOCKS – White Plains: Allison Arenth 2, Lily Ponder 1, Gracie Morgan 2, Kassidy Ledbetter 2.

White Plains’ Ashlyn Cryer (10) goes way up to send a shot back to Cherokee County.

Alexandria 3, Ramsay 1: The Lady Cubs (35-7) went to Birmingham for their final tuneup before this weekend’s county tournament – where they are the No. 1 seed – and took down an athletic Ramsay team in four sets. Lexi Weber returned to action and had 11 kills and six blocks. Jordan Beason had nine kills and 13 digs, Madison Wallace had 10 kills, Kylie Jordan 11 kills and Anna Johnson 41 assists.

Alexandria 3, Ramsay 1
KILLS – Alexandria: Jordan Beason 9, Kylie Jordan 11, Madison Wallace 10, Lexi Weber 11, Sarah Pelham 1, Anna Johnson 5, Kandyn Blankenship 2, Kaylee Smith 5.
ASSISTS – Alexandria: Sarah Pelham 3, Anna Johnson 41.
ACES – Alexandria: Jordan Beason 1, Kylie Jordan 1, Ashley Parker 2, Anna Johnson 1.
DIGS – Alexandria: Jordan Beason 13, Kylie Jordan 13, Madison Wallace 2, Lexi Weber 1, Sarah Pelham 13, Ashley Parker 10, Anna Johnson 9, Kandyn Blankenship 4, Kaylee Smith 2.
BLOCKS – Alexandria: Madison Wallace 2, Lexi Weber 6.

Calhoun County Tournament

At Alexandria H.S.
Saturday’s matches
No. 13 Wellborn vs. No. 12 Piedmont, 9 a.m. (C3)
No. 14 JCA vs. No. 11 Saks, 9 a.m. (C2)
No. 8 Pleasant Valley vs. No. 9 Faith Christian, 9 a.m. (C1)
No. 5 Ohatchee vs. Wellborn-Piedmont winner, 10:30 a.m. (C1)
No. 6 White Plains vs. JCA-Saks winner, 10:30 a.m. (C2)
No. 7 Weaver vs. No. 10 Sacred Heart, 10:30 a.m. (C3)
No. 1 Alexandria vs. Pleasant Valley-Faith Christian winner, noon (C1)
No. 4 Oxford vs. Wellborn/Piedmont-Ohatchee winner, noon (C2)
No. 3 Donoho vs. JCA/Saks-White Plains winner, 1:30 p.m. (C1)
No. 2 Jacksonville vs. Sacred Heart/Anniston-Weaver winner, 1:30 p.m. (C2)
Semifinal No. 1, 3 p.m. (C1)
Semifinal No. 2, 3 p.m. (C2)
Monday’s match
At Jacksonville State
Championship match, 7 p.m.

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