E.A. Sports Today

Ohatchee in the pink

Ohatchee, Alexandria, Faith Christian, Munford, Wellborn, Westbrook win area volleyball titles, Saks, Piedmont, Glencoe advance as area runner-ups

Alyssa Davis (cover far left) was the first to wear the pink cowboy hat that has become a trademark of this year’s Ohatchee volleyball team.

Area 8

At Faith Christian
ASD 3, Talladega Co. Central 0
Faith Christian 3, ASD 0 (25-12, 25-7, 25-15)
Wadley 3, Winterboro 1
Faith Christian 3, Wadley 1 (11-25, 24-19, 25-16, 25-18)
Region openers: Faith Christian vs. Central Hayneville, Wadley vs. Calhoun

Area 11
At Westbrook Christian
Glencoe 3, Hokes Bluff 2
Westbrook 3, Glencoe 0 (25-16, 25-15, 31-29)
Region openers: Glencoe vs. Colbert Heights, Westbrook vs. Colbert County

Area 8
At Wellborn
Saks 3, Randolph County 0
Wellborn 3, Saks 0 (25-7, 25-6, 25-6)
Regional openers: Wellborn vs. Excel, Saks vs. Thomasville

Area 10
At Ohatchee
Piedmont 3, Weaver 1 (25-16, 25-27, 25-23, 25-15)
Ohatchee 3, Piedmont 0 (25-8, 25-21, 25-16)
Regional openers: Ohatchee vs. Brindlee Mountain, Piedmont vs. Susan Moore

Area 8
At Munford
Handley 3, Talladega 0
Munford 3, Handley 0 (25-17, 25-12, 25-18)
Regional cross: Area 4 (Thursday: LAMP vs. Dallas County/Wilcox Central)

Area 12
At Alexandria
Southside 3, Lincoln 0 (25-13, 25-7, 25-13)
Alexandria 3, Southside 1 (25-19, 26-24, 22-25, 25-15)
Regional openers: Alexandria vs. Madison Academy, Southside vs. Westminster Christian

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OHATCHEE – The pink cowboy hats will be taking over the Von Braun Center in Huntsville next week and they’ll let everyone know the Ohatchee volleyball team is in the house.

The Lady Indians have been a new style of head dress since right after the county tournament and, frankly, have looked quite stunning on and off the court in it.

They’re headed to Huntsville with the pink cowboy hats in tow after sweeping Piedmont 3-0 (25-8, 25-21, 25-16) Wednesday to win the Class 3A Area 10 championship. They’ll play Area 13 runner-up Brindlee Mountain in their North Regional opener 9 a.m. Oct. 20.

The idea of the hat started modestly enough early in the season with senior Alyssa Davis wearing it to honor a family member battling breast cancer. She admitted to feeling a little self-conscious being the only one with a hat, so she brought some others for her teammates to enjoy.

It was starting to gain traction, then right after last month’s county tournament title match loss to Alexandria, Rebecca Henderson found a bunch of them on Amazon and the whole team has been wearing them – and haven’t lost – ever since. Now, in retrospect, Davis was something of a trendsetter.

“It started out like a rally cap,” head coach Rebecca Hughes said. “One of them had some random cowboy hat that was light pink. We wore the head dresses for a little while. October is pink breast cancer awareness, so we were like let’s go with the pink hat.

“It’s just a fun way to get the girls into the game. It’s rally caps. When we’re starting to play well, let’s throw your pink hat on and keep pushing like that. It’s just a fun little thing. It keeps their mood up. They have fun with it. As long as they’re having fun, they’re playing ball.”

The cowboy hats really were rally caps in the second set against Piedmont after the Lady Indians fell behind 20-13 after winning the first set handily. They bounced back through the back line magic of Alanah Fitch and the front line power of tournament MVP Jorda Crook to retake control of the match.

They scored 10 straight points with Fitch serving to take the lead, several of which were bombs by Cook. It was more of the same in the third set with Fitch serving for nine straight points as they got off to a 13-1 start.

Fitch had five aces and only two errors in 37 serve attempts; she also had 17 assists. Crook had 21 kills on 25 attacks.

“I think I did way better than I’m used to,” Fitch said. “I think I showed more intensity. My serves were way better, harder, than they’ve been. I just wanted to win.”

“She is a very consistent server, a very aggressive server,” Hughes said. “She’s one of those that if we’re in a pinch I want her serving.”

Piedmont earned its second trip to the regionals in three years by turning back Weaver for the sixth time this season, 3-1, in the always instense 2/3 match.

The teams split the first two sets, but the Lady Bulldogs survived a tight third set and pulled away midway through the fourth to close it out. LeLe Ridley had 20 kills in the match, Jaycee Glover had 20 assists and Cacey Brothers had seven aces.

They will play Area 13 champion Susan Moore in their regional opener at 9 a.m. Oct. 20.

“Our seniors made it a mission and their determination and leadership got us here,” Piedmont coach Magan Glover said. “They remember that from those years of not making it and getting beat last year. So, they kind of used that to say that’s not where we want to be, we want to punch that ticket and got on. That was the biggest thing, our leadership from the four seniors I’ve got, making that a priority.

“They know when it comes to the area tournament you’ve got to play. The first game we took, but the second one we got in a hole, came back and gave ourselves chances to win, but just didn’t finish. But we talk about letting it go and go on to the next one. That’s what they did on Game 3.”

Class 3A Area 10

Jaycee Glover11215Jorda Crook21153
Lele Ridley41Gracyn Snow226
Cacey Brothers31Hannah Fitch283
Jenna Calvert1Rebecca Henderson37
Emma Grace Todd631Alanah Fitch6`755
Carson Young31Ellie Carden22
Brett Finn3

Most Valuable Player: Jorda Crook, Ohatchee
Ohatchee: Alanah Fitch, Ellie Carden, Hannah Fitch, Gracyn Snow
Piedmont: Lele Ridley, Jaycee Glover, Emma Grace Todd
Weaver: Jada Harrington, Madison Atchley

Wellborn gets more

The Wellborn volleyball team already knew it was guaranteed a spot in the regionals in Montgomery by virtue of winning its three-team area, but the Lady Panthers wanted more.

And they got more by making quick work of county rival Saks, 25-7, 25-7, 25-6 for the area championship.

“Getting there is part of it,” Wellborn coach Brenda Vinson said, “but it’s like I tried to tell the girls, you worked hard for it, but you’ve still got to execute today to make sure it’s yours.”

The Lady Panthers (25-13) executed well and got contributions from a lot of places. Kevianna Crumb had a team-high 13 kills, Samara Thomas had eight and Anna Odom six. Gracie Lewis distributed 31 assists and Delana Stephens had a team-high 11.

“I’ve had some great, great teams and some great kids, but this group here is just special to me,” Vinson said. “They just work, they don’t complain, they’re where they’re supposed to be, they’re on time, they get along.

“There’s just something about them that has made it for me, being an older coach, a lot smoother. They were willing to accept the challenge. We raised the bar to try to reach new heights. It’s been fun.”

And it’s not over. The Lady Panthers open their regional play against Area 4 runner-up Excel at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 19.

Class 3A Area 8

Anna Odom611
Annalee Rinehard148
Calla Hayes411
Chloe Screws11
Delana Stephens111
Gracie Lewis13112
Kevianna Crumb132
Kyra Tirban36
Samara Thomas8126

Munford milestone

MUNFORD – The Munford Lady Lions are headed back to the South Regionals for the second year in a row, but this time it’ll be as area champions. And until somebody can find evidence to the contrary, it will be the first time they’ve won an area title in volleyball.

“One of my coaches went through the hallway trophy cases and said all I see are runner-up plaques,” Munford coach Destinee Briskey said. “Just thinking about it, I’ve been around the county for so long, but I just don’t ever remember hearing Munford winning area.”

The Lady Lions crossed that milestone off their bucket list by sweeping Handley 25-17, 25-12, 25-18 for the Class 4A Area 8 title. They await the runner-up of Area 4 to be determined Thursday for their regional opener in Montgomery at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 19.

“I think it’s a big deal for the culture at Munford,” Briskey said. “A lot of schools I’ve been at have had some type of team that’s been very successful, goes to the state championship every year; Munford has like one state championship, from the 2002 slow-pitch softball.

“Especially for girls sports they’re really making a name for themselves. I think it’s good for the culture. We’re still trying to get that new Munford mentality in there. This is good for them.”

Eighth-grader libero Ashtyn Bishop was named tournament MVP. She distributed what Briskey considered nine perfect passes, handled the harder servers particularly well and made several good defensive plays. She was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Anijah Gladden, Kaylyn Turner and Ellie Jones.

Class 4A Area 8

Kyleigh Hurst192
Anijah Gladden461
Ashtyn Bishop14
Ellie Jones52
Blair Darby72
Kaylyn Turner12
Alys Mosley2
Mylie Stephens1
Bre Hailes1
Lauryn Brewster1

Lady Cubs back in

Alexandria extended its string of consecutive regional berths with a 3-1 win over Southside for the Class 5A Area 12 title, but it doesn’t get any easier.

The Lady Cubs’ road to through the regional is fraught with high-end competition, but if they negotiate the gantlet coach Whitney Welch likes their chances to put another title ball on the back wall of the gym.

“I know we can do it,” she said. “If we can get to the second day up there (Huntsville), I love our chances. It’s not going to be easy, but we can do it.”

The Lady Cubs (40-12) road back to Birmingham starts with a 9 a.m. date with Area 16 runner-up Madison Academy and then a second-round matchup against Arab or Pleasant Grove a few hours later to qualify for the Elite 8.

“It’s about getting there in the North,” Welch said. “The North 5A is going to be hard, but if you can get in, then I like the North’s chances of winning the whole thing. That’s what we’re worried about right now, getting in and getting there.”

There was a lot on the line in their match Wednesday, not the least of which was winning to avoid an opening regional matchup with top-ranked Westminster Christian. 

The Lady Cubs started out like they were going to run away with it, scoring the first seven points of the match and opening a 13-4 lead. Southside then put together a seven-point rally and it stayed close until Alexandria scored seven of the final 10 points.

Southside went out quickly in the second set, then it was Alexandria’s turn to rally and make it close and win it at the end.

The Lady Panthers put together a 14-2 run in the middle of the third set to erase an early 15-8 deficit and climb back into it  Alexandria took control of the fourth set early and stayed comfortably out front.

“We still have to be more consistent,” Welch said. “There’s something about Set 3 with us. It’s just kind of the way volleyball is: They get the momentum and tend to keep it; that’s what they did to us there.”

Alexandria’s Kailey Dickerson dominated the championship match with 27 kills. Eryn Spradley had 11 kills and Christian Hess had 38 assists.

Class 5A Area 12

Rachel Wilson94Kailey Dickerson2714
Madison Shaw96Brie Troup3222
Kylie McMichael24Eryn Spradley11
Sarakate Yancey311Christian Hess13834
Kathryn Webb217Devan White149
Peyton Burrell1252Ava Johnson110
Emma Knowlton1Brenlee Sparks119
Lexie Graham215Lauren Weber3
Tessa HoodCassidy Hartsfield21
Rylie Kitchens1

Faith back on top

Faith Christian returned to the Class 1A regionals as area champions for the first time since reaching the state semifinals in 2018 when the Lady Lions beat Wadley 3-1 for the 1A Area 8 crown.

The Lady Lions rallied after losing the first set to win the next three sets 24-19, 25-16, 25-18. They qualified for the regionals by sweeping ASD in the semifinals. They will play Central Hayneville in their regional opener in Montgomery at 12:45 p.m. Oct. 19.

“It was huge because with these girls having a different coach every year they’ve kind of felt lost from what I’ve heard them say ,” first-year Faith coach Avery Gowens said. “Being able to come into this season with a new coach again but work together and establish the same goals and mentality together and see that we’re able to achieve these things has completely changed their demeanor and view towards what they can be and what they will be.”

Gabrielle Price and Ally Folsom led the Lady Lions with 13 kills apiece. Folsom was particularly effective in the adjustments Gowens made after they lost the opening set 25-11. Senior Kelsey Brown also played a big role in giving the Lady Lions a push when they needed to restart their engines.

“Something we’ve really worked on is not giving in,” Gowens said. “If a team beat us or is ahead, we don’t give up.”

Gowens saw that in action Saturday in the team’s last regular-season tournament. They were playing 6A Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa and trailed 21-7 in the first set, but rallied to win it 27-25.

“At that moment, my assistant coach and I kind of looked at each other and we were like, ‘It’s here,’” Gowens said. “What we’ve been fighting for and pushing these girls to realize (is) that they are great and can be great and not giving in really, really helped.”

Class 1A Area 8

Ally Folsom2023
Serenity Pate1
Cheyenne Rice1292
Gabrielle Price1958
Kelsey Brown7103
Hannah Hubbard42
Kayson Cronan3115
Sarah Katz5
Anna Kate Robertson3323
Kaylee Hughes
Faith McDade81

Westbrook rolls on

RAINBOW CITY – Westbrook Christian rmoved up in class and rolled to its first area title since 2018, beating Glencoe 3-0 for the Class 3A Area 11 crown and clinching the match in a thrilling 31-29 third set.

Landri Lipscomb led the Lady Warriors (35-5) with 11 kills, while Raegan Harrell and Ellison Stewart each scored eight. Brielle Wood distributed 40 assists. Raylee Neal had 14 digs, while Kylee Wyatt and Henley Beddingfield had 11 apiece.

“These girls have worked so hard this summer and this season without hesitation they never complained and just focused on the goals we set this summer,” second-year Westbrook coach Denise Mattison said.

Raylee Neal4114
Brielle Wood64046
Raegan Harrell812
Kylee Wyatt211
Landri Lipscomb11121
Taylor Meador74
Ellison Stewart8
Marley Cox7
Henley Beddingfield11

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