ALEXANDRIA — Tuesday’s volleyball meeting at The Jungle with Frankton visiting Alexandria had all the emotion and intrigue of a championship match.
The underdog Tigers opened with a haymaker, the Eagles responded to take the lead, then Alexandria won an epic set before Frankton ultimately held on in the fifth for a 17-25, 25-22, 25-17, 26-28, 15-9 win.
Frankton improved to 10-1 with its third straight win while Alex fell to 5-5.
In this rematch of last year’s Sectional 40 championship, won by the Eagles in four sets, it was Alex that came out on fire. The Tigers torched the Frankton defense while slowing down the Eagles’ offense early, taking a 20-9 lead before a raucous crowd.
“We told the girls going in that this was going to be a dogfight,” Alex coach Caitlin Morency said. “I think coming in, a lot of people thought they’d win 3-0, but we have a lot more faith in our kids than they do.”
That was evident early as the Tigers got extended service runs from freshman Addy Warren, sophomore Tyler Stinefield, and junior Lauren Dungan.
Alex used the strong service game to try to take Frankton out of its offense early, and it worked. Top Eagles hitter Kate Sperry struggled in the first set, first with the Alex defense, then with her own swing.
“They were blocking her,” Frankton coach Beth Sperry said. “But we had Chloee (Thomas), and Chloee was huge tonight.”
With Sperry being contained, Frankton setter Aleyah Rastetter looked to junior Chloee Thomas early. Thomas had 10 kills in the first two sets, helping keep the Eagles afloat until Sperry could get going. Thomas led the team with 18 kills and five blocks.
Even with Thomas rolling, the Eagles were down 7-3 early in the second set. But a Rastetter service run and a Gabby Carmack kill put Frankton ahead to stay at 10-9.
With that second set win, the Frankton confidence seemed to be back. Sperry got going, and Rastetter fed the ball to her hitters, including Thomas, Audrey Cleek (11 kills) and Carmack (10 kills) as Frankton controlled the set and seemed to be in charge of the match.
“I told them to look at the scoreboard (after the first set),” Coach Sperry said. “I told them it was 25-17, and that wasn’t going to happen again. We wanted to play our game.”
But Alex has plenty of talent of its own and answered in the fourth set.
Dungan, who finished with a match-high 19 kills, became the go-to player for the Tigers as they eventually held a 20-17 lead.
But a Sperry kill broke a 22-22 tie and gave the lead back to the Eagles, looking to close out the match.
What ensued was nine straight points where neither team scored consecutively. Alex took a 26-25 lead on an Ally Honeycutt ace, a setting violation gave the Tigers a 27-26 lead and Dungan put away a kill to even the match and force a fifth set.
In the fifth, a Thomas block sparked a 7-2 run to break open a 5-5 deadlock. It was Sperry who dominated, with five of her 17 kills in the fifth set.
“It was so exhilarating, just to get a point in this match,” she said. “Just knowing that my team needed me and wanting to be that go-to player, it gave us the confidence to break through.”
Rastetter finished with 47 assists and four aces for the Eagles while Mackenzie Adams had 37 assists and five aces for the Tigers. Olivia Hall had five blocks for the Tigers.
The Eagles will stay on the road with a visit to rival Lapel scheduled Wednesday evening. Both teams will begin Madison County tournament pool play Thursday, with Alexandria heading to Madison-Grant where it will face the Argylls and Liberty Christian while Frankton will play at Anderson, facing off with the Indians and Elwood. Pool play begins at three sites Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Alexandria won the junior varsity contest in straight sets, 25-20, 25-17.