Mobile County has long been known as a powerhouse for high school volleyball. Since 1990, only three state tournaments have taken place that did not end with a local prep squad bringing a trophy back to the Alabama Gulf Coast.
That tradition not only continued this season, but a new name appeared in the storied list of champions. St. Luke’s Episcopal, which did not graduate its initial senior class until 2013, captured the Class 2A title with a dominating 3-0 win over Winston County in the title game.
Other area schools to claim crowns are Bayside Academy in Class 3A and St. Paul’s Episcopal in Class 5A. Spanish Fort was unable to defend in Class 6A, as the Spartans lost in the finals.
Class 2A — The Wildcats may be new on the athletics scene but they have already had quite an impact. In baseball, St. Luke’s won state titles in 2013 and 2014. Adding to the trophy case on University Boulevard is the boys’ golf team, which captured championships in 2013 and 2015.
“This past season has definitely been one for the record books,” said head coach Meredith Donald, whose team finished with a 46-14 record. “Our varsity volleyball program has always been strong, winning our area championship every year since we began competing in AHSAA varsity sports five years ago.”
In the finals against Winston County the Wildcats faced three set-point serves in the first game before pulling out a 28-26 win. They wrapped up the sweep by taking the next two matches, 25-11 and 25-13.
“Serving and passing were key,” said Donald, a former all-conference performer at Spring Hill College. “I knew if we served and passed well we would win.”
Elizabeth Thompson, St. Luke’s 6-foot senior middle hitter, collected nine kills and five block assists. This earned her the Class 2A tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
Natalie Bonner and Jada Carney added 11 and 10 kills, respectively, while setter Brooke Threlkeld had 21 assists and Kellan Hensley had 21 digs. Joining Thompson on the all-tourney team were Hensley, Threlkeld and Bonner.
“Our team motto this year was ‘Make It Count,’ and we definitely lived by that motto all season,” said Bonner, a junior who was one of the team captains. “There are no words to describe the feeling you have when you work that hard and it pays off with a state championship.”
Class 3A — To say Bayside Academy is one of the most dominating volleyball programs in Alabama would be an understatement. The Admirals have won 15 straight titles, the last nine in Class 3A and the other six in Class 2A. Going back to the 1981 season, the squad has captured a state record 25 volleyball championships.
The latest victim for Coach Ann Schilling’s team was Providence Christian. Bayside, which finished with a 57-7 record, swept the title round (25-23, 25-13, 25-18) after having won a tough five-set match the previous week against Providence Christian in the South Super Regional finals.
Senior Ariel Dulaney had 14 kills, 4 service aces and 7 digs leading up to being named the Class 3A Most Valuable Player. She closed her prep career by collecting her 1,500th kill.
Lauren Chastang, who was the tourney MVP in 2015, added 9 kills and 9 digs. Setter Ansleigh Dailey contributed 27 assists. They joined Dulaney on the all-tournament team.
Class 5A — St. Paul’s Episcopal is not far behind in recording state championships. The Saints now have 16 volleyball trophies since capturing their first in 1976.
In this year’s final, St. Paul’s swept three straight sets (28-26, 25-21, 25-13) over Alexandria High. Parker Canada secured the tourney MVP honors with 13 kills and 11 digs. Mary Hollingsworth (19 digs), Konner Wilks (15 digs), Lily Myers (14 assists) and Katie Albrecht (14 assists) also had big games.
Canada, Wilks and Hollingsworth made the all-tourney team. St. Paul’s claimed its first state title since 2014 and its initial one with head coach Lisa Marston at the helm. The Saints wrapped up a 47-4 record.
Faith Academy of Mobile lost in the quarterfinals to Alexandria.
Class 6A — Spanish Fort saw an incredible season fall just short of its ultimate goal. Hazel Green High School won 25-21, 25-23, 25-23 to take home its first state title since 1994. A member of that squad was Coco Tate Hughes, who now coaches Hazel Green.
The Spartans and head coach Gretchen Boykin end the season with a 58-5 record. In the title match, Spanish Fort was led by Savannah Lee (14 kills), Carley Hamric (11 kills) and Reilly Vought (30 assists). Lee and Hamric were selected for the all-tourney team.
Class 7A — Since winning its initial state title in 1974, McGill-Toolen Catholic High School is another familiar presence at the volleyball championships. The Mobile school was unable to pick up another, however, after falling to eventual champion Mountain Brook in the semifinals (25-20, 24-26, 28-26, 25-20). Kenya McQuirter did make the all-tournament team for McT.
Helmets and Heels
The Dollar General Bowl, formerly known as the GoDaddy Bowl, is working with the C Spire First-and-10 Club to present Helmets and Heels. The event will feature ESPN’s Holly Rowe and Chris McKendry.
The Mobile Marriott on Airport Boulevard will host the guest speakers: McKendry, who has covered tennis since 1996, at noon on Nov. 14; and Rowe, who has worked as a sideline reporter since 1998, at noon on Nov. 21. This promotion is available to nonmembers at a one-time rate of $45 for both luncheons. Registration ends Friday, Nov. 11, at 5 p.m. To register, call 251-635-0011 or visit dollargeneralbowl.com.
Congratulations to the University of South Alabama and the University of Mobile.
The Jaguars won their third straight Sun Belt Conference regular-season title (12-5-1 overall, 7-3 league) and become the first team in SBC history to “three-peat.”
The Rams (13-2-2 overall, 6-0-1 league) captured the regular-season title in the Southern States Athletic Conference. UM was ranked No. 5 in the last NAIA poll before entering the conference tournament.