E.A. Sports Today

Champions crowned

Cleburne County, Wellborn advance to regionals as area champs; Munford, Saks going as runnerups

The Wellborn volleyball team comes together to celebrate their Class 3A Area 9 championship Tuesday. On the cover, Cleburne County celebrates winning the Class 4A Area 7 title.

Area 8 at Ranburne
Championship game: Ranburne 3, Lanett 1 (25-14, 21-25, 25-13, 25-17)
Regional: Ranburne vs. Area 3 RU, Oct. 20, 10:15 a.m.; Lanett vs. Area 3 winner, 11:30 a.m.
(Area 3 Thursday: E.W. Long, Elba, Zion Chapel, Ariton)
Area 9 at Wellborn
Saks 3, Childersburg 0 (25-11, 25-9, 25-12)
Wellborn 3, Saks 0 (25-16, 25-17, 25-18)
Regional: Wellborn vs. Area 13 RU, Oct. 20, 12:45 p.m.; Saks vs. Area 13 winner, 12:45 p.m.
(Area 13 Thursday: Susan Moore, JB Pennington, Holly Pond, Brindlee Mountain)
Area 7 at Cleburne County
Munford 3, Handley 0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-16)
Cleburne County 3, Munford 0 (25-17, 25-15. 25-18)
Regional: Cleburne County vs. Area 4 RU, Oct. 21, 9 a.m.; Munford vs. Area 4 winner, 10:15 a.m.
(Area 4 Thursday: Jackson, Wilcox Central, Sumter Central)
Area 13 at Springville
Springville def. Pell City
Southside def. Oxford
Championship match: Springville 3, Southside 2 (25-27, 17-25, 25-18, 25-15, 15-7)
Regional: Springville vs. Homewood, Oct. 20, 9 a.m.; Southside vs. Mountain Brook, 9 a.m.

Pleasant Valley 3, Donoho 2 (25-21, 24-26, 17-25, 25-14, 15-11)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

HEFLIN – Jordan Sides knew there were some questions lingering over her Cleburne County volleyball team at a time in the season questions are the last thing anybody wants.

As the top seed in a three-team league, the Lady Tigers were guaranteed a trip to the Class 4A super regionals regardless of how they played in the area tournament. But you want to be sharp at this time of year and their play over the weekend left just a little uncertainty.

But somewhere between the weekend and Monday night the Lady Tigers rediscovered “it” and looked sharp in taking down Munford 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-18) to win their second straight Area 7 championship.

They will play the Area 4 runnerup that will be determined Thursday in their South Super Regional opener in Montgomery at 9 a.m. Oct. 21. Munford, which earned its spot by sweeping Handley in the 2-3 match, will play the Area 4 champion at 10:15.

“Coming in to today we had some questions that were answered,” Sides said. “We had fall break last week. We played a tournament and didn’t really play to our potential in the tournament and we had kind of a rough practice yesterday. I’m just glad the girls came here ready to fight and they showed up ready to win.

“I could tell once they walked in the gym this was a different team. We’re winning this today and they came out with all kinds of energy. They wanted to be here, they wanted to win and their energy proved it. They just ran off with it.”

The Lady Tigers were on it from the start, jumping out to a 10-1 lead in the second set. Even when they lost a step, they were confident the energy would return.

They fell behind in the second set 10-7 when Sides took a time out that provided quite strategic. They gave up a point on the restart, then ripped off a 12-1 run to take control. They only point they lost in the run came on a service error.

“I could just kind of feel the momentum change and I wanted to make sure our girls knew that, yes, they have some momentum right now but this is your game to lose; you’ve got to take it and run with it,” Sides said. “They had all the momentum from first game, they had that momentum from the first five points and then it kind of flattened out. I just needed them to pick their energy back up and they did that.

“It took everybody to win. We had that extra hustle, that extra want-to. The tournament this weekend I just didn’t feel like we had it, but they showed up today ready to play. They played hard. They found it somewhere, let’s hope they keep it.”

The third set was close early, too, but Cleburne County pulled away from an 11-10 deficit with another 12-1 run with Kaydence Wright serving the last seven points. Kynsi Hazzard and Karley Boyd had 14 and 13 kills, respectively, in the match. Libby Altman had 36 assists and Hailey Price had 12 digs.

“We played so good, we had a lot of energy,” Hazzard said. “It just kind of came. It just felt natural. I really don’t know how to explain it. I could tell even if it wasn’t there at that point in time, it was going to be here.”

MUNFORD 3, HANDLEY 0: The Lady Lions played their way into the Super Regional with a 25-17, 25-13, 25-16 sweep in the win-or-go-home area semifinal.

A loss would have ended their season. Instead, they got contributions across the board.

Anijah Gladden had 12 kills and three aces, Kaylyn Turner had 10 kills and Ellie Rose Jones had eight kills and two aces. Kyleigh Hurst had 31 assists and Kirsten Rogers had 10 digs. 

Championship match
Cleburne County 3, Munford 0
(25-17, 25-15, 25-18)
KILLS – Cleburne County: Kynsi Hazzard 14, Karley Boyd 13, Faith Brown 4, Kaden Pritchett 4, Carlee Hiett 1. Munford: Kaylyn Turner 2, Ellie Rose Jones 3, Kelsey Goodson 3, Kyleigh Hurst 1, Layla Tyus 2, Anijah Gladden 4.
ASSISTS – Cleburne County: Libby Altman 36. Munford: Kyleigh Hurst 9, Mekiah Mosley 1.
ACES – Munford: Kelsey Goodson 1, Mekiah Mosley 1, Anijah Gladden 1.
DIGS – Cleburne County: Hailey Price 12, Munford: Ellie Rose Jones 3, Kelsey Goodson 3, Kyleigh Hurst 1, Kirsten Rogers 7, Mekiah Mosley 13, Anijah Gladden 4.
BLOCKS – Munford: Kaylyn Turner 2.

Class 3A Area 9

Wellborn coach Brenda Vinson has area tournament plaques going back to 2013 – except, of course, for the one year they didn’t present one – so suffice to say the Lady Panthers have enjoyed exceptional success in the events.

They used to just be laying around her office until she decided to hang them on the wall. They were an assortment of first- and second-place plaques and then one day she decided the runner-up awards should come down.

“Our goal is not to get there; it’s to win your area,” she said. 

The Lady Panthers collected another winner’s plaque for their wall of honor Tuesday after dispatching Saks 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 25-18) for the Class 3A Area 9 title.

“This is two years in a row,” Vinson said proudly, “so hopefully we’re on the right track.”

The current track has Wellborn awaiting the Area 13 runner-up for its Super Regional opener in Huntsville Oct. 20. Saks will play the Area 13 champion.

The Lady Panthers (21-15) took advantage of the rotation that took Saks’ 6-5 Tamaryn Pierce off the front row to put together three sizeable runs in the middle of each set.

They trailed 14-13 in the first set then put together an 11-1 run that gave them the lead for good. They were up 13-12 in the second set and put together a 6-1 run to take control. And in the third set they led 10-9 and went on a 9-1 run that set them on their way to clinching.

“We had to take advantage of it,” tournament MVP Kevianna Crumb said.

“I told them in the first time out and before we played the biggest thing you can do in this game is make the other team guess,” Vinson said. “When you’ve got hitters who can hit, you’ll get into a rut and you’ll go to traditional coverages, but if you start mixing it up you’ve got the defense fleeing and you’ve got a better advantage to catch them out.”

Crumb had 11 kills, hitting mostly from the left side and away from wherever Pierce was positioned. Samara Thomas had nine kills and eight digs, while Anna Odom and Calla Hayes each had eight. Brianna Wyatt had 10 digs, and Heather Downs had six kills, three aces and eight digs.

“We didn’t play well when we went to Saks and they played well that day and beat us,” Vinson said. “When we played them here we played well, so for us today it was about trying to finish. We’ve played well with some good teams and we beat some good teams, but we’re up and down. Now’s the time you’re supposed to be up.”

SAKS 3, CHIILDERSBURG 0: The Lady Wildcats played their way into the Super Regional by making quick work of Childersburg in the win-or-go-home 2-3 match, 25-11, 25-9, 25-12.

The Lady Wildcats trailed only once in the 45-minute match – 1-0 in the third set – and allowed consecutive points just six times in three sets. Tamaryn Pierce had 10 of her 18 kills in the match in the first set. Kayleigh Thomas had five aces in the match and Stormy Nolen had 20 assists. 

Pierce agreed there was a lot of pressure on the match, but the Lady Wildcats played as a team and were confident they could get through it.

“There were times we looked really good and times we didn’t pass the ball well,” Saks coach Tim Beard said after the match. “That’s one area we work on more than anything, need to work on more than anything. If we can pass the ball we can play with Wellborn, we can compete with them. If we don’t pass the ball well, it’s going to be a tough day.”

Championship match
Wellborn 3, Saks 0
(25-16, 25-17, 25-18)
KILLS – Wellborn: Anna Odom 8, Calla Hayes 8, Gracie Lewis 5, Heather Downs 6, Kevianna Crumb 11, Samara Thomas 9. Saks: Tamaryn Pierce 7, Kayleigh Thomas 5, Raina Zackery 1.
ASSISTS – Wellborn: Gracie Lewis 82. Saks: Stormy Nolen 17.
ACES – Wellborn: Brianna Wyatt 2, Delane Stephens 2, Heather Downs 3, Samara Thomas 1. Saks: Tamaryn Pierce 1.
DIGS – Wellborn: Brianna Wyatt 10, Delane Stephens 6, Diana Rodriguez 2, Gracie Lewis 5, Heather Downs 8, Kyra Tirban 5, Samara Thomas 8.
BLOCKS – Wellborn: Anna Odom 1, Heather Downs 1. Saks: Tamaryn Pierce 4, Camrie Denham 1, Raina Zackery 1.

MVP: Kevianna Crumb, Wellborn
Gracie Lewis, Wellborn
Heather Downs, Wellborn
Samara Thomas, Wellborn
Tamaryn Pierce, Saks
Stormy Nolen, Saks
Tamia Hancock, Childersburg

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