E.A. Sports Today

3 more area champs

Jacksonville, Alexandria, Cleburne County all claim area tournament titles; for Jacksonville, that makes 19 in a row

Lexi Weber had 27 kills in Alexandria’s area tournament title match against Lincoln. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – You know you’re in a dynasty when there’s not a player in the program who has never known a time when the team hasn’t been an area championship.

It’s impressive enough when an entire class goes through their career having never lost an area title. But we’re talking in their lifetime here, not just when they participated in the program. And Jacksonville has had that going on for a couple years now.

The Lady Golden Eagles won their 19th straight area volleyball tournament championship Wednesday when they swept Anniston and White Plains to claim the Class 4A Area 9 crown. They swatted Anniston 25-1, 25-3, 25-4 and turned back White Plains 25-15, 25-14, 25-11.

The area tournament may not be the biggest jewel in the crown, but it’s one you’d certainly like to have and at least playing for it moves you along for the bigger prizes that await.

“It goes to expectations for our kids,” Jacksonville coach David Clark said. “Over those years you’re not always really good – some are a fight – but I told them tonight to be careful. I think this group has bigger things in mind, but I don’t want them to miss some of the things along the way. Sometimes you take things, not for granted, but they’re not made as big as it should … and a lot of things happen between here and the state tournament.

“It’s a big deal because the younger ones see and it becomes an expectation for them and it manages to carry over. I’ve had good players, but sometimes teams have had to grit it out. They know if we’re going to have a shot at a state championship we’ve got to have that and if you win it, it usually puts you in a good position.”

The Lady Golden Eagles (36-7) were workmanlike and “solid all the way around.” They placed particular emphasis on their serve game and it reflected in their stats. It was back and forth early with White Plains and the Lady Golden Eagles even fell behind but their rotations in the mid-teens created separation.

White Plains (17-18) reached the finals with a 26-24, 25-13, 25-22 win over Cherokee County. Ashlyn Cryer had 10 kills and Gracie Morgan nine in the Lady Wildcats’ two matches. Natalie Pinto had 20 assists and Reese Roberts had 17. Emma Ponder had 22 digs.

Jacksonville will host West Limestone in Saturday’s subregion round, while White Plains travels to West Morgan.

(25-15, 25-14, 25-11)
KILLS: Molly Wilson 2, Kayla Broom 12, Brenna Stone 8, Caitlin Clark 1, Aly Harris 9.
ASSISTS: Molly Wilson 24, Brenna Stone 1, Lexie Callahan 1.
ACES: Molly Wilson 3, Brenna Stone 1, Caitlin Clark 1, Bailee Pritchett 1.
DIGS: Molly Wilson 4, Kayla Broom 7, Brenna Stone 10, Caitlin Clark 4, Aly Harris 1, Lexie Callahan 3, Bailee Pritchett 5.
BLOCKS: Molly Wilson, Kayla Broom 2, Brenna Stone 3, Aly Harris 3.

(25-1, 25-3, 25-4)
KILLS: Molly Wilson 1, Kayla Broom 7, Brenna Stone 5, Caitlin Clark 1, Jules Grass 3, Lexie Callahan 1, Chloe Fuller 3.
ASSISTS: Molly Wilson 11, Abby Wilcek 6.
ACES: Molly Wilson 2, Abby Wilcek 3, Kayla Broom 3, Brenna Stone 8, Caitlin Clark 10, Aly Harris 11, Lexie Callahan 5.
BLOCKS: Molly Wilson 1, Kayla Broom 2, Chloe Fuller 1.

(2-match totals)
KILLS: Callyn Martin 1, Lily Ponder 6, Ashlyn Cryer 10, Macy Scism 1, Gracie Morgan 9, Taylor Hodge 4, Kassidy Ledbetter 5, Emma Ponder 3, Natalie Pinto 1.
ASSISTS: Reese Roberts 17, Kassidy Ledbetter 1, Natalie Pinto 20.
ACES: Ashlyn Cryer 1, Gracie Morgan 1, Reese Roberts 1, Emma Ponder 1, Natalie Pinto 2.
DIGS: Callyn Martin 11, Lily Ponder 4, Ashlyn Cryer 14, Courtnee Masson 2, Gracie Morgan 15, Reese Roberts 3, Taylor Hodge 4, Kassidy Ledbetter 3, Emma Ponder 22, Natalie Ponder 5.
BLOCKS: Lily Ponder 1, Ashlyn Cryer 1, Gracie Morgan 1, Reese Roberts 1, Taylor Hodge, Kassidy Ledbetter 1.

Class 5A Area 11

When she stops and really thinks about it, Alexandria coach Whitney Welch realizes there are “a lot of weird similarities” between this season and the 2017 season the Lady Cubs won the state championship.

Of course COVID-19 was never in the conversation there years ago, but the latest similarity is winning the area tournament, which they did Wednesday night in a 3-1 victory over Lincoln and hadn’t done since 2017.

“This is big,” Welch said. “It’s been a weird year as far as talking about all this stuff going on. When you look at Ohatchee and Oxford (quarantined by COVID-19 this week), I’m just grateful we’re all here at the end. I’m just glad we were able to do it and now we can kind of move on.”

The Lady Cubs (33-15) swept through St. Clair County in their first match. They were tied 1-1 with Lincoln and 16-16 in the third set but pulled away to win in four.

“I think our girls fight,” Welch said. “I don’t think they have been at a match where they haven’t fought.”

Another similarity to 2017, the Lady Cubs played with a key player missing some time with a hand injury. In the state championship year setter Gracie Muncher was sidelined briefly in the regionals. Middle hitter TyShica Woodgett was out Wednesday night with a sore hand, but Welch brought up Brie Troup from the JVs and she and Blakeley Mobbs filled in admirably.

Troup had one kill, six digs and a block against Lincoln, three kills and a dig against St. Clair County. Mobbs had four kills and two aces against St. Clair County, one kill and two aces against Lincoln. Woodgett is expected back for Saturday’s subregion match against Sardis, but Welch said Troup would remain on the roster for the remainder of the postseason.

The Lady Cubs got some big numbers from their regulars in the title match. Lexi Weber had 27 kills and four blocks. Jordan Beason had 16 kills. Anna Johnson had 38 assists and 18 digs. Kandyn Blankenship had 23 digs and Sarah Pelham had 14 digs.

(25-14, 20-25, 25-16, 25-17)
KILLS: Jordan Beason 16, Anna Johnson 2, Lexi Weber 27, Blakeley Mobbs 1, Kaylee Smith 1, Rylee Gattis 2, Brie Troup 1.
ASSISTS: Anna Johnson 38, Sarah Pelham 2, Kandyn Blankenship 1, Kaylee Smith 1.
ACES: Anna Johnson 2, Blakeley Mobbs 2, Kaylee Smith 1.
DIGS: Jordan Beason 4, Anna Johnson 18, Sarah Pelham 14, Lexi Weber 1, Kandyn Blankenship 23, Blakeley Mobbs 3, Kaylee Smith 6, Rylee Gattis 1, Brie Troup 6.
BLOCKS: Lexi Weber 4, Rylee Gattis 1, Brie Troup 1.

(25-8, 25-17, 25-9)
KILLS: Jordan Beason 3, Anna Johnson 1, Lexi Weber 9, Kandyn Blankenship 1, Blakeley Mobbs 4, Rylee Gattis 1, Brie Troup 3.
ASSISTS: Anna Johnson 14, Sarah Pelham 2, Kandyn Blankenship 1, Crossley Sparks 2.
ACES: Jordan Beason 3, Anna Johnson 1, Blakeley Mobbs 2, Kaylee Smith 2.
DIGS: Jordan Beason 2, Anna Johnson 8, Sarah Pelham 7, Kandyn Blankenship 4, Blakeley Mobbs 2, Kaylee Smith 4, Crossley Sparks 2, Brie Troup 1.
BLOCKS: Jordan Beason 1, Anna Johnson 1.

Class 4A Area 7

HEFLIN – Cleburne County checked off the first box in its list of goals in its first season under coach Jordan Sides when it swept Munford 3-0 for the area tournament title. The Lady Tigers won 25-11, 25-21, 25-10 and will host W.S. Neal in Saturday’s subregion match.

It was only a two-team tournament as Handley had to withdraw due to COVID-19 quarantine, so both teams were advancing regardless of the match’s outcome. Munford travels to Area 1 champion St. Michael Catholic in Fairhope – 266 miles away — for its subregion match.

“This summer we set some goals for the season and that was one of their goals,” Sides said. “They came to practice every day with that goal in mind and continued to work hard and get better to reach it, and here they are at the end of the season reaching one of the goals they set for themselves.”

Kynsi Hazzard led the Lady Tigers (20-5) with 13 kills and four aces. Haven Freeman had eight kills and four blocks, and Karley Boyd had four kills and five aces. Karley Leggett had three aces, Micah Pentecost had 18 assists, Libby Altman had nine assists and Kaylee Shierling had 10 digs and two aces. The Lady Tigers scored 15 aces in the match.

“It was a big game but you could tell they were calm,” Sides said. “In the second set we were down six late (17-11) and they never once got nervous. I’m over there having a stroke and their like, ‘Don’t worry, I got this,’ and they came back and won it.

“They just refused to lose. That’s been sort of our saying and they stuck with that and took it to heart.”

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