JACKSONVILLE — It’s almost as guaranteed as the sun rising each morning.
David Clark and his Jacksonville High volleyball team added yet another area tournament championship to their long list of titles. This time, the Golden Eagles took the Class 4A, Area 12 crown by beating White Plains in Tuesday’s finals 25-9, 25-16, 25-9.
According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society’s volleyball statistics, Jacksonville has won area tournament champions every year since 2003. Even more, according to Clark, the Golden Eagles haven’t lost an area game during the regular season or tournament since 2012.
“All of our area championships are important,” Clark said. “What I try to stress to the team is that when you get a chance to play for one, it’s always important. Those things don’t last forever. My first 10 years here, we didn’t have this kind of success, so I hope they appreciate it.”
Similar to its semifinal match against Cherokee County earlier in the afternoon, Jacksonville and White Plains started the first set with a tight battle before the Golden Eagles closed out the set with a 16-3 run. They led only 9-6 until then. In the second set, the two teams against played it close until Jacksonville held White Plains to four points while scoring 10 itself to take control in a 25-16 win.
Jacksonville wasted little time in the third set and went up by as many as 17-4 before the Wildcats rallied late.
Aniyah Robinson had a team-high six aces and 10 kills, while Sierra Stone had four to go along with nine kills and three blocks. Elizabeth Poe added 15 kills and eight digs. Reagan Stallings finished with 24 digs and Tatiyana Thomas had 32 assists.
White Plains 3, Hokes Bluff 2: The Wildcats took their semifinal match in a five-set thriller 20-25, 25-16, 25-13, 17-25, 15-12.
“We don’t do anything the easy way, obviously,” White Plains coach Joi Watts said while trying not to smile. “That’s kind of been the tale of our season this year. I’m excited for this group of kids, because I can never doubt they’re giving me their best. I know they’re out there giving me everything they have.”
With the win, White Plains clinched a spot in the Super Regional for the first time since Watts’ first year as head coach in 2013. Setter Ryleigh Randall, a freshman on the ’13 team, is the only player on this year’s team who has played in Huntsville, the site of the North Super Regional.
After leading the first set 4-3, White Plains saw Hokes Bluff battle back, take a 6-5 lead and never looked back. In the second, the Eagles got as close as 12-10, but then the Wildcat went on a 13-6 scoring run to even the match.
In the third set, the Wildcats ran out to a 7-3 lead before Hokes Bluff made it 10-9. However, the Eagles allowed Watts’ team to outscore them 15-4 to rest of the way.
With their backs against the wall, Hokes Bluff wasn’t about to watch its season end, so the Eagles outscored White Plains 12-4 after the fourth set was tied 13-13.
In the fifth, White Plains ran out to a 7-2 lead before Hokes Bluff came back to make it 13-12. The Wildcats clinched its spot with back-to-back points to end the match.
Jacksonville 3, Cherokee County 0: Jacksonville, the host school of the 4A, Area 12 tournament by virtue of winning the regular season area crown, made light work of Cherokee County 25-16, 25-10, 25-9 to start the afternoon.
Jacksonville opened all three sets by keeping the Warriors, the tournament’s fourth seed, off the scoreboard for extended periods of time. In the first set, the Golden Eagles led 6-0 before Cherokee County scored. 8-0 and 3-0 were the runs to open the second and third sets, respectively.
In the first set, Cherokee County pulled to within five at 15-10 before Jacksonville went on a 10-6 scoring run the rest of the way to close it out. During the second, the Warriors got as close as 9-4, but the Golden Eagles responded with a 16-6 run to end it.
The third was similar to the second as Cherokee County kept it close early before Jacksonville pulled away down the stretch.
Stone and Robinson led Jacksonville with nine kills each, while Poe added five kills and 10 digs. Thomas had 24 assists and seven digs. Stallings had 15 digs.