The Lady Golden Eagles posed for a few minutes as parents flashed and flicked away before the awards ceremony.
But almost as quickly as they ran up to accept the championship trophy, they exited stage right, having done exactly what they set out to.
“They put in the work,” Jacksonville coach David Clark said. “We’ve reached the point with the school, not just this particular group, where year in and year out, they expect to win the County tournament.”
Top-seeded Jacksonville’s 25-20, 25-17, 25-12 win against third-seeded Alexandria gave the Lady Golden Eagles their fifth consecutive County tournament title and third win against Class 4A, Area 12 foe Alexandria this season.
Saturday’s meeting between the teams was their second in three days. After edging the Lady Valley Cubs in a tough 3-2 affair at home Thursday night, the Golden Eagles looked as if they were in for another run for their money early on Saturday.
They found themselves down five points at 17-12 in the opening game when Clark called for a timeout.
“I was heated for me,” said Clark, who rarely — if ever — rises from his seat on Jacksonville’s bench. “There weren’t any chairs thrown or anything like that. We had missed on some serves and hit some balls in the net. I let them know that I had had about enough.”
His team responded, going on a 6-0 run take the lead back at 18-17 and never looked threatened again as they closed the match out in business-like fashion.
“We were just taking it easy,” Jacksonville senior Allender Doggett said of her team’s struggles. “We just had a whole week off and didn’t practice well. But we told each other to keep our heads up and that we could do it and come back. We had faith in each other and that’s what we did.”
Doggett, The Star’s Class 4A-6A Calhoun County Player of the Year as a junior, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Defensive Player. She led Jacksonville with 35 kills to go along with 20 digs and five aces.
Nicole Penny (six aces, four blocks and 83 assists), Lana Bell (30 kills and 11 digs), and Alex Burroughs were also named to the all-tournament team.
The Lady Golden Eagles, ranked No. 2 in the state, improved to 36-1 on the season. After a bye in the first round, they began play with a 3-0 (25-13, 25-7, 25-12) win against No. 8 White Plains. They downed fourth-seeded Saks 3-1 (25-15, 25-18, 23-25, 25-12) in the semifinals.
Jacksonville travels to top-ranked Guntersville where it also faces Springville in a tri-match Monday.
Third-seeded Alexandria defeated No. 14 Jacksonville Christian Academy 3-0 (25-9, 25-17, 25-12) and No. 11 Faith Christian 3-0 (25-7, 25-21, 25-15) before downing second-seeded Donoho in five (25-18, 25-21, 12-25, 17-25, 15-7).
“I was pleased that we got a win in a close match even though it shouldn’t have been close. We were up 2-0,” Alexandria coach Jordan Costner said. “We came out with the win. In the past, we’ve let teams take those kinds of matches from us.”
Alexandria’s Morgan Read was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Offensive Player. She finished the day with 36 kills and 19 digs. Devonna Taylor and Amanda Young had 32 kills apiece to be named to the all-tournament team. Alie Hamilton, also tabbed for the all-tournament squad, added 101 assists.
Olivia Walker had eight blocks.
The Valley Cubs (32-13) will travel to Cleburne County Monday.
By Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.