The Alabama High School Athletic Association might consider moving its volleyball state tournament to the Alabama Gulf Coast — it would certainly save on moving expenses for the championship trophies.
Three local squads returned home recently as winners. The list includes Bayside Academy, St. Luke’s Episcopal and McGill-Toolen Catholic high schools.
• This marked the 16th consecutive year the Bayside Admirals have won a state title, and the 26th overall since 1981. However, this Class 3A crown did not come easy for the Daphne school.
Montgomery Academy won the first set 25-23 before Bayside rallied to win 25-17 and 25-21. The Montgomery Eagles, though, won the fourth set 25-22 to tie the match. The Admirals hung on 15-13 to secure the victory.
“I am just extremely happy for the players,” said coach Ann Schilling, a recent inductee into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame. “They work so hard, and to keep performing at a high level in such pressure is incredible.”
Bayside’s Brantley Rhodes was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The senior had 24 kills and 6 service aces.
Ansleigh Daily and Jacque Martin joined Rhodes on the all-tourney squad. Daily had 51 assists and 11 digs, while Martin had 15 digs, 13 kills and 4 aces.
Other standouts included Ella Dawson (10 digs and 7 kills), Ella Broadhead (9 kills) and Kaitlyn Morris (14 digs). The Admirals finished with a 42-10 record.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, Bayside only trails one school in the total number of state titles and consecutive crowns. Bishop England in Charleston, South Carolina, won its 18th straight trophy last weekend. This was Bishop England’s 28th prize since 1977.
• St. Luke’s may be one of the newest kids on the block, but that has not stopped its team from finding success. Although the first senior class did not graduate from the Mobile school until 2013, this marks two straight Class 2A championships.
“The girls have worked so hard this year and I couldn’t be prouder of them and all that they stand for,” said head coach Meredith Harvison, whose team finished with a 34-15 record. “There was never a doubt in my mind that the girls could handle the pressure of the competition. We do pressure drills everyday in practice, and they are always under pressure to uphold the Wildcat standard on and off the court.”
The Wildcats had no trouble in the title match against Goshen. St. Luke’s won in straight sets 25-11, 25-12 and 25-15. Senior Jada Carney was named MVP after finishing with 14 kills and 3 service aces.
Joining her on the all-tournament roster were senior Kellan Hensley (16 digs), junior Lauren Bailey (20 assists) and 8th grader Gracie Sims (13 digs).
• No local volleyball program has a deeper history than McGill-Toolen’s. The famed “Dirty Dozen” squad brought its first title home to Mobile in 1974, but the last championship was secured in 2005.
In the semifinals, McGill-Toolen knocked off three-time defending champion Mountain Brook. In the title match, they outlasted Bob Jones High School of Madison 25-16, 25-23 and 27-25.
“To win a state championship, our team defeated three of the top five teams in 7A volleyball — Hoover, Mountain Brook and Bob Jones,” coach Kate Wood said. “For our team to win three matches, in straight sets, was unbelievable for us to witness as coaches.
“We had talked about our steady ascent all year. We would go through weeks where we would plateau, and we would talk about the plateaus being a time for us to reinforce what we were learning. But through it all, we talked about the next steep ascent that was coming if we just stayed focused on giving max effort, having a great attitude, being grateful for our opportunities, and treating each other really well.
“It was amazing to see that steep ascent at the state tournament. It was more powerful than we could have imagined.”
Junior Kenya McQuirter had 23 kills, 12 digs and 5 service aces to earn MVP honors. Joining her on the all-tourney roster were Erica Schilling (15 digs), Lillie Fromdahl (25 assists) and Alex Pierre (11 kills). Millie Andrews added 20 assists.
This was the 20th overall state title for McGill-Toolen. The team finishes with a 46-8 record.
• In the Class 6A playoffs, Daphne and Spanish Fort lost in the semifinals. St. Paul’s lost in the same round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Jaguars roar in soccer
It has been quite a turnaround for the University of South Alabama women’s soccer team. After starting the year 0-4, the Jaguars tore through their Sun Belt Conference schedule. They claimed their fourth straight regular season championship and a fifth SBC tourney title in a row by beating Coastal Carolina 5-0.
For their efforts, senior Rio Hardy was named the league’s player of the year while junior Hannah Godfrey was voted defender of the year. They are joined on the first-team roster with Steffi Hardy and Danielle Henley. On the second-team unit are Kory Dixon, Selma Bjorgvinsdottir and Chelsea Followwell.
Hardy was also named the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament, which was played in Foley. On the all-tourney team with her were Henley, Hardy, Dixon and Justice Stanford (who made four saves in recording her eighth shutout).
Hardy, who is on the first-team list for the third time, led the conference in both points (1.59) and goals (0.71) per game, and game-winning goals (5). The Workington, England, native became the school’s all-time leader in game-winning goals and ranks second in both career goals (43) and points (103) following the SBC tournament.
Godfrey, a native of Thornton-Cleveleys, England, has played all but 10 minutes this season and anchors a defense that is second in the league in goals against average (0.96). The preseason player of the year and 2016 second-team All-SBC honoree played a key role in the team shutting out its last five opponents. USA was 14-5-1 entering the NCAA playoffs.