That place for Saks is still in volleyball’s postseason. The Lady Wildcats hit the road today to take on second-ranked Winston County in the sub-state round of Class 3A action.
But their thought isn’t finished.
“We expect to make it to the final eight,” said Tucker. “That’s been our goal all season…That’s been our No. 1 goal — to make it to Pelham.”
The only way seventh-ranked Saks (32-12) can get there is with another win today.
Up until the regional tournament, wins weren’t a problem. Saks won its third consecutive area championship, when it captured the Area 9 title, defeating Wellborn and Piedmont to improve their record to 17-1 in area play the past three seasons. The Lady Wildcats downed Geraldine in the first round of the Region C tournament to qualify for sub-state play before losing a five-game match against host Ashville and 3-1 decision to Madison Academy to finish fourth.
That placed them right back where they were a year ago — on the road with a chance to play for a shot at the ultimate prize. Last year, the Lady Wildcats fell to 3-1 to Lawrence County.
“Last year, I don’t think it was a situation where they weren’t prepared,” Tucker said. “We just ended up playing a Lawrence County team that was really good.”
This year’s Saks squad is led by 6-foot sophomore middle hitter Taylor West, who comes into the match with a team-high 365 kills and 101 blocks. But West isn’t a one-woman show. Destinee Briskey, an all-area tournament selection, has 315 kills, and defensive specialist Rebecca Bowen, another all-area tournament choice, leads the way with 329 digs.
Aside from the all-tournament selections, the Lady Wildcats have another crucial piece of the puzzler Valentina Cuevas, their senior setter, a position akin to quarterback in football.
And this quarterback is just thankful to be on the court again. Cuevas missed her sophomore year when she tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. Then she missed all of her junior season with torn ACL and meniscus in the other knee.
“I was pumped man,” Cuevas said about finally being able to play again. “I’m just thankful to God I’ve made it this far.”
She’s racked up 779 assists on the season as Saks has garnered 11 wins against ranked teams while dropping just one match to unranked squads. Her experience at the position, having played with the same group of girls in junior high, has allowed the team to do more with its hitters such as playing more quick attacks, Tucker said.
“My job is to try to do whatever it takes make it easy for everyone else gets their job done,” Cuevas said. “If I do my job — I trust my teammates — I know they’ll work hard and get their job done.”
Tucker said his team met a couple of weeks ago following the area tournament to discuss the goals they first set at a team retreat back in late July. Despite their fourth-place finish in the regional, Tucker said his team feels it can reach the mark it first set.
It’s as simple as winning today, and they won’t be surprised if they do.
“We feel like there isn’t anything we can’t do if we come together and play like we’re capable of playing,” West said.
He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @birds_word.