It happened inside Van B. Deerman Gymnasium where Jacksonville fell to top-ranked and defending state champion Guntersville 3-1 (25-23, 12-25, 18-25, 24-26) to capture the AHSAA Class 4A Region C tournament Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Golden Eagles used the extraordinary leaping ability of 5-footer Lana Bell and 5-7 counterpart Allender Doggett to take the first game against the Lady Wildcats.
“Lana and Allender are good jumpers,” Jacksonville coach David Clark said. “Somebody told me they were impressed with how hard they swing the other day. It is somewhat of an equalizer but when you’ve got their height at the net, it makes a really big difference. When we’ve got a 1-on-2 out there against them, we aren’t going to win that very often.”
Doggett finished with 28 kills, nine digs and four aces on the day for Jacksonville, who defeated D.A.R. and St. Clair County to advance to the final. Bell was right behind her with 27 kills, five digs and four aces.
The Lady Golden Eagles rallied back from down seven to take an early 1-0 lead.
They had a game point in the fourth that would’ve forced a fifth and decisive game but came up just short against the too tall Lady Wildcats, whose roster boasts six players who are at least 5-10 and three who are 6-0 and above.
The teams have squared off the in the state championship the past two seasons. Jacksonville picked up its second of back-to-back titles in 2008 with a win against Guntersville. The Lady Wildcats returned the disfavor a year ago, defeating Jacksonville 3-1 after dropping the first game in a match that played out in similar fashion to Saturday’s.
“I’m gonna tell you. When a trophy’s on the line, they (Jacksonville) show up,” Guntersville coach Jimmy Latta said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for that program. In that last set, they dug up everything we hit.”
Fourth-ranked Jacksonville held the lead at 24-23 with an opportunity to extend the match into a fifth game, following a crosscourt kill from Emily Torruella, but a kill from 6-2 Guntersville junior Catherine Leak tied the game. Then, the Wildcats took the final two points to seal the deal.
“I wasn’t really pleased with the way my team played up until the final,” Clark said. “I didn’t feel like we played with much intensity at all. Sixteen and 17-year-old minds may have been looking forward to this match but I was unhappy with their intensity the first two matches. Then we came out and played with a lot of intensity (in the final). I told them everything we wanted to accomplish this season is still out there.”
The Lady Golden Eagles (43-9) will host Ardmore, who finished third in Region D in the sub-state round of the playoffs Thursday.
Guntersville hosts Huntsville Catholic the same day.
Haley Jackson finished with 22 kills and 10 blocks. Torruella had 17 kills, three blocks and a dig. Katie Neisler had 16 kills, 10 blocks and two digs. Setter Nicole Penny had 91 assists on the day to go along with two kills, two blocks and three digs for Jacksonville.
Springville defeated St. Clair County in the consolation final to take third place.
Guntersville 3, Alexandria 0
Guntersville ended the Lady Valley Cubs’ season with a 25-19, 25-16, 25-16 win in the first round.
Morgan Read led the way for Alexandria with seven kills followed by Amanda Young who had six. Kayla Howard added 10 digs and Nicole Burgess contributed with 22 assists.
Alexandria ended a stellar season with a 31-15 record.