E.A. Sports Today

Rally on

Pleasant Valley, Oxford rally from two sets down, win semifinal matches in five to reach Monday’s Calhoun County volleyball final


Wellborn High School
No. 6 Wellborn def. No. 11 Piedmont
No. 7 Jacksonville def. No. 10 White Plains
No. 13 Jacksonville Christian def. No. 12 Saks
10 a.m.
No. 5 Donoho def. JCA
No. 8 Faith Christian def. No. 9 Weaver
No. 3 Ohatchee def. Wellborn
No. 1 Alexandria def. Faith Christian
No. 2 Oxford def. Jacksonville
No. 4 Pleasant Valley def. Donoho
2 p.m.
Pleasant Valley def. Alexandria 3-2
Oxford def. Ohatchee 3-2
Pete Mathews Coliseum

Pleasant Valley vs. Oxford, 7 p.m.

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

WELLBORN — If only Monday’s Calhoun County volleyball final can match the drama of Saturday’s semifinals.

Fourth-seeded Pleasant Valley rallied from two sets down to upset top seed and two-time defending champion Alexandria in five sets, and No. 2 Oxford came back from an 0-2 hole to hold off No. 3 Ohatchee at Wellborn High School.

The fifth and final set was 15-13 in both matches.

Pleasant Valley will play Oxford in Monday’s 7 p.m. final in Pete Mathews Coliseum.

Pleasant Valley avenged two losses to Alexandria earlier this season and losses to the Valley Cubs in the 2021 and 2022 county tournaments to reach the final for the first time since making it three years in a row, from 2015-17.

Oxford made the final for the first time since it moved into Pete Mathews Coliseum, in 2015.

Pleasant Valley coach Dana Bryant, set to retire after this season, her 18th as the Raiders’ head coach, wiped away tears after huddling with her jubilant team.

“This is sweet,” she said. “The transition from them thinking they can to now knowing they can, that’s what’s sweet.

“I know what I’ve got in my team, but all season long, they haven’t necessarily known what they have. For them to finally step into what they really are, that was something.”

Oxford won 23-25, 17-25, 25-23, 25-17, 15-13, and the Yellow Jackets’ turnaround saw them step back into who they are, Oxford coach Wendy McKibbin said.

“We decided to play,” she said. “The first two sets, weren’t giving maximum effort, and then we decided to play the third set and fight.”

Pleasant Valley won its match with Alexandria 22-25, 20-25, 25-18, 27-25, 15-13 on the strength of 24 kills from Lily Henry and 22 from Allie Bryant. Maddie Schwabe turned in 51 assists, and Ella Parris turned in eight blocks.

Things turned during the Raiders’ huddle after the second set. The discussion involved race horses, Henry said, particularly how race horses finish the race.

“We’ve just been working so hard all season, and we were like, we’ve been put out by Alexandria for, like, three years,” Henry said. “We were like, this is the year that changes.”

Pleasant Valley reached the semifinals with a victory over 25-9, 25-19, 25-14 victory over Donoho, the team that beat the Raiders in last year’s Class 2A state final. The Falcons graduated all but four players, and a right-ankle injury took Alabama North All-Star hitter Estalla Connell out of action.

Pleasant Valley played the middle portion of the season without Schwabe, who fought back from an ankle injury.

Oxford’s day started by beating Jacksonville 25-14, 25-20, 25-7. On the day, Ava Thomas had 30 kills. Jaslyn Montgomery added 24 kills and a team-high six blocks, and Payton Brooks dished out 73 assists.

“Hopefully, we’ll be ready to play on Monday, against Pleasant Valley,” McKibbin said. “I’m excited. You don’t want to peak at the wrong time, but county is right before area, so we’re ready.”

Oxford’s Mileah Prince hits against Ohatchee during their Calhoun County semifinal match Saturday at Wellborn High School. (Photo by Joe Medley)

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