Jacksonville fell to Guntersville 25-18, 25-19, 24-26, 25-22 in the Class 4A title contest, but the loss also earned the Golden Eagles the second seed out of the North for next week’s state tournament at the Crossplex in Birmingham.
“I didn’t think we played with a lot of confidence in the first two, but we played better in the others. There were some opportunities that we let get away from us,” Jacksonville coach David Clark said. “The important thing is we advanced. And it’s like I told them, everyone is 0-0 starting next week.”
Playing in Huntsville, Jacksonville began the day breezing by Priceville 25-21, 25-23, 25-15 and defeating defending Class 4A champion Madison County 18-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-20.
However, when the defending Class 4A runner-up hit the court against Guntersville, Jacksonville struggled.
In the first game, Guntersville took advantage with an 18-11 lead after the score was tied 10-10. Once Jacksonville was able to make a comeback, the Wildcats had 20 points.
The same was the case in the second game. An 8-2 Guntersville run gave it a 14-8 lead. Jacksonville was able to string together six consecutive points, but Guntersville had 23 points when the rally began.
“There were some opportunities that we let get away from us,” Clark said. “We did a good job in the third game stepping up in third game and we had some big points in game four. We just have to be more consistent.”
Play did pick up in the third game and it was Jacksonville that used a 9-1 run midway through to take a 19-18 lead after trailing by seven. With the Golden Eagles’ backs against the walls, Jacksonville was able to edge out Guntersville to stay in the match.
And although Jacksonville dropped the fourth game, Clark said he thinks the competiveness his team played with will build confidence for next week.
“I think with as many errors as we made and to still be involved in this last match, I don’t feel like we played exceptionally well here. We did what we needed to to get through games,” he said. “I think there’s a lot more left for us and we can play a lot better than we did these last few days.”
Donoho will go into Birmingham’s Crossplex on Wednesday as the top seed out of the South Super Regional after defeating St. Luke’s 25-22, 19-25, 25-15, 25-23 in the 1A finals.
Playing in Montgomery, the two-time defending state champions were backed by Corey Phillis’ 28 kills and 23 digs and Rylee Segrest’s 50 assists and 28 digs in the championship match.
Donoho defeated Kinston 25-19, 25-14, 25-21 to start the day and Jefferson Christian 25-8, 25-11, 25-13 in the semifinals.
During the first two matches, Segrest recorded 71 assists and had 24 digs. Phillis had 28 kills and 14 digs. Against Kinston, Kayla Wallace had nine kills and Hannah Christian had eight kills. In the Jefferson Christian match, Camille Fink had nine kills.
Oxford’s postseason run fell short early Saturday afternoon, as the Yellow Jackets fell to Huntsville 25-13, 25-20, 25-11 in a second-round match.
Oxford battled back and forth with the Panthers before Huntsville went on a long 15-4 run in the first game to set itself apart from the Yellow Jackets. The run started with Oxford trailing 9-8.
A 10-4 run by Huntsville made the difference in the second game, but Oxford put together a rally while battling game point. With Huntsville looking for the 25th point, Oxford scored six straight times, nearly making a full comeback, but falling in the end.
Lexi Higgins led Oxford with 6 kills, three digs and an ace. Breanna Nolan added three kills and four digs.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star