LINCOLN -- For the first time since 2011, Lincoln’s high school volleyball team captured an area championship.
The host Lady Golden Bears bested Cleburne County in four games (25-19, 23-25, 25-18, 25-23) to bring home some hardware in the Class 5A, Area 10 tournament.
Lincoln defeated Central Clay County in three games (25-17, 25-20, 25-17) to advance to the final, while Cleburne County took down Talladega in four (24-26, 25-14, 25-16, 25-23).
“We trailed, but we fought back and battled back,” said Lady Golden Bears coach Patty Hansen. “This is just a great group of young ladies. Every single one of them play hard and do what they’re supposed to do.
“The last week or so, we’ve really jelled. I’m just proud of every one of them. Right now, I have a team (where) every player plays and every player makes a contribution to our team. It has just been an awesome year, and I’m just excited about us going to Huntsville.”
She added her players respond well to adversity and always remain positive, even when they find themselves down on the scoreboard.
“That’s what they’ve done,” Hansen said. “They’ve worked really hard, and everybody wants to be the starter, but I have 13 starters. I have 13 great players, and they’re ready to go.”
Heather Pritchard earned tournament MVP honors. The senior finished her night with three aces, nine kills and four blocks.
“She’s a great leader,” Hansen said. “She plays the net very well and she stays strong. She’s tired of hearing me to tell her to jump, but she’s gotten better and better every year. It’s been pretty awesome to watch her come up through the ranks. She’s been here, I think, since seventh or eighth grade, and she’s been with me all these years.
“It’s pretty special for them and these nine seniors to go out with this. I’m just proud of them.”
Pritchard said it was great for the Lady Golden Bears to bring home the victory.
“It’s a really big honor to be able to do this my senior year,” she said. “It’s a feeling like I’m going crazy, but it feels really good after it having (been) five years. It’s been really great.
“I was really proud of the way we played today. We hustled and we cheered each other on really loud. I know that we came into today knowing that we were going to play great, and playing against teams like Cleburne County, it really pushed us to be our best and cheer each other on as best as we can.”
Teammates Laurel Hambric, Carlee Mullinax and Kristen Woods joined Pritchard as representatives on the all-tournament team. Mullinax registered two aces, seven kills and eight assists.
Carmen Morgan posted a solid defensive effort for the Lady Golden Bears with 23 digs.
Kiara Akles, Lauren Brown and Madison Higgins earned all-tournament team honors for the runner-up Lady Tigers.
Both teams advance to the Alabama High School Athletic Association North Super Regionals in Huntsville, and for first-year Lady Tigers head coach Brittany Strott, she’s happy for a chance for her team to prove its worth after Brown fought through a broken pinky for three weeks of the season.
“Our team did very, very well,” she said. “We’ve had an injured player all year long, and we haven’t had the best season we thought we were going to have. So to show up tonight and actually win a trophy was very, very big for them .… To win something, and actually place in something and get a chance to go to regionals to show what we’ve got is very pleasing.
“I’m proud of the way they played. Now that we have a chance, who knows what we’re going to do when we get there … We’ve had to go through so many adjustments, and the girls have had to go through so much adversity. For them to come out here and play as hard as they did, I was very proud of them.”