After having a bye into the Class 6A, Area 14 volleyball tournament it hosted Tuesday night, the Lady Yellow Jackets downed Pell City 3-0 (25-14, 25-10, 25-9) with relative ease to earn the title.
“I was pleased that we played at our level,” Oxford coach Wendy McKibbin said. “I got everybody in. I got some kids some playing time that don’t normally get a lot of playing time. I thought they did well.”
Oxford dominated for long stretches in each game Tuesday night, winning point after point as it turned a match that looked as if it might be a battle in the early stages into a blowout. In Game 1, the Lady Yellow Jackets had spells where they won six and five straight points. With the Lady Panthers within two points of a tie at 6-4 in Game 2, the Lady Yellow Jackets reeled off 14 straight points and wrapped up Game 3 in similar fashion.
“Other than the first game where they scored 14 points, I thought we took care of business,” McKibbin said. They scored 10 and nine points the second and third games. So, yeah, I was pleased.”
C.J. Payton, a 5-foot-5 junior outside hitter led Oxford with 13 kills, five digs and a block. Morgan Turner had six kills, two blocks and three aces. Timera Arnold also added six kills and two blocks and freshman Morgan Whaley added nine assists.
Pell City defeated Gadsden City 3-1, winning 24-26, 25-20, 25-18, 25-14 to advance to the final. Raegan Merryman led the Lady Panthers in that match with nine kills. Tealla Shepard had six kills and three blocks against the Lady Titans. Shepard had two kills against Oxford.
“We played so hard in that first match it was hard playing back-to-back,” Pell City coach Melissa Craft said. “We had 10 minutes between matches. We’ve got eight players and we only play six due to injuries and other obstacles. The good thing is they’re young and they’ll bounce back.”
With the win in the final, Oxford improves to 34-17 and advances to the Region D tournament Saturday in Huntsville. They’ll face Area 15 runner-up Austin. The Lady Black Bears fell 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-20) to Bob Jones. Bob Jones, ranked No. 4 in the state, will host the region tournament and face Pell City.
Making it out of the region and into the Elite 8 state tournament in Pelham is something that has escaped the Lady Yellow Jackets since they reentered Class 6A in 2006.
McKibbin said her team has prepared for the level of competition they’ll face this weekend by playing a tough schedule which has included matches against the likes of Jacksonville, Alexandria, Pleasant Valley, Winston County, Donoho and Guntersville to name a few.
“We’ve played tough competition throughout the year,” McKibbin said. “We’ve played in tough tournaments and we’ve got a lot great teams in Calhoun County that are ranked in the top in the state.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds-word.