ALEXANDRIA — Alexandria head coach Whitney Welch wanted two things from Thursday’s 1 p.m. matchup with Sardis.
One was to raise money for the volleyball team by allowing students to come see a match during school instead of staying in class, while the other was to allow her players to play in an atmosphere similar to what they would see at the super regional or state volleyball tournament.
Well, Welch accomplished both of those when the Valley Cubs played in front of a packed house at Larry Ginn Gymnasium. It all led to a win for the Cubs when they defeated Sardis 25-9, 25-23, 25-21.
The school administration allowed Alexandria High students to buy a ticket to the match and get out of class to watch their volleyball team.
Last season, Alexandria traveled to Sardis for a similar matchup, which was a Lions fundraiser. This year, Alexandria decided to do the same, and Sardis returned the favor.
“It was really good for (the Valley Cubs), because that’s what we’ll see if we make it to the super regionals,” Welch said. “That’s one reason we wanted to do this. I wanted to see how they would react playing in front of that kind of atmosphere.”
The players enjoyed getting to play in front of an almost capacity crowd.
“I liked it a lot,” said Taylor Spradley, who led Alexandria with 12 kills for the match. “Having so many people around makes the game so much more intense and it’s really a rush. That was amazing.”
There was a mixed review from the match, however. Alexandria began with a dominating 25-9 win in game one, but after that the Cubs were in for a battle.
They started the second set in a similar fashion, but Alexandria errors allowed Sardis to battle back to eventually take a 21-20 lead. Alexandria pulled out the 25-23 win, but the Cubs were in for another battle in the third set. Alexandria eventually took control and secured the 25-21 win.
“I think we did good in the first game, but after that we didn’t,” senior Catelynn Howell said. “In those next two games we kind of took our foot off the pedal and made too many errors. We were beating ourselves.”
Welch thought her team didn’t sustain the energy it gained at the beginning from playing in front of the large crowd. She added that it is good for the team to see how to handle that now instead of at super regionals for the first time.
“In the first game we were excited and then we couldn’t sustain it through some struggles,” Welch said.
Howell finished the day with 10 kills, four digs and one ace. Tori Rae Stillwell had two kills, four digs and one ace. Aubrey Pope had four kills, nine digs, six blocks and one ace. Gracie Muncher had two kills and 21 assists. Kinsley Gregoria had six digs and one ace.
Alexandria (21-5) will return to the court Saturday when they travel to Brooks for a weekend tournament. Welch said that will be another challenge for her team.
“It will be a tough tournament,” Welch said. “There’s going to be a lot of teams from Tennessee there, so that will be a chance for us to play some teams we’ve never seen and I think that will be good for us.”