SELMA — After dominating the first two sets against Winchester, the Alexandria Tigers found themselves tied at 19-19 in a sloppy third set and were faced with the real possibility of playing a fourth set in their 2020 sectional opener.
Coach Caitlyn Morency called a timeout and looked to get her team refocused on playing Alex volleyball.
“We really got out of sorts there,” she said. “What they were doing out there doesn’t look like what we do in practice or what we do in games. We just needed to relax, play the way we play and quit looking at other people to play the ball.”
The Tigers responded, closing out the match by scoring six of the next seven points, including three aces from sophomore Addy Warren, and swept the Golden Falcons 25-13, 25-10, 25-20.
Alexandria (22-8) will now face Class 2A second–ranked Wapahani (23-5) after the Raiders fought off Lapel 25-16, 25-9, 25-14.
Alexandria was clearly the dominant team against Winchester (7-16) early on. Even the opening set score was deceiving as seven of Winchester’s 13 points came on Tigers’ serving errors.
“That’s what we talked about first thing between games, that we needed to be getting our serves inbounds,” Morency said. “That was way too many. We told them that seven is too many for a match, let alone a game. But they fixed it.”
For the remainder of the match, Alexandria committed just two more serve errors and totaled 12 aces for the match. Warren closed out both the first and third sets with aces.
“Addy on multiple games this year as closed it out with aces or gotten us big leads with aces,” Morency said. “If it happens to be that she’s back there (to serve) at the end of the game, I’m more than OK with that.”
Offensively, Alexandria’s attack was led by Kaitlyn Bair with 13 kills while Taylor Stinefield added seven. Junior setter Kendall Parker handed out 25 assists and chipped in six kills, including a well-placed push kill to set up Warren’s match-ending aces.
Kara Simison added three of Alex’s 12 total aces.
Lauren Dungan, who added six kills and two aces, will enter Saturday’s semifinal match just five digs away from 1,000 as the Tigers look for a little payback against the Raiders, who ousted Alexandria in last year’s semifinal round. Wapahani went on to finish as the state’s runner-up, and Alex knows it will have to be on top of its game.
“We need to stay aggressive,” Morency said. “You can’t play tentative against a team like Wapahani. So, as long as we can stay aggressive at the service line and aggressive at the net, we’ll be in good shape.”
The Bulldogs showed early fire and late fight but were no match for the Raiders overall.
Junior Emma Anderson got Lapel off to a good start with a kill and two aces for a 4-1 first set lead. But the Raiders showed their strength to break free from a 14-14 tie to finish the set on an 11-2 run.
After Wapahani dominated the second set, the Bulldogs led several times in the third set. But the biggest advantage in that set was 7-5 following a Makayla Smethers four-point serve run, and the last lead was at 11-10.
Anderson finished the night with six kills and three aces, and junior setter Emma Jackley had 14 assists. An emotional coach Hilary Eppert said the program will miss the two seniors, defensive specialists Avery Bailey and Madi Carpenter.
“I told them in there that they have changed the landscape of defense for this team and the expectation of anyone coming after,” Eppert said. “They know now that, if you’re going to be a defensive player on this team, that’s the expectation.
The Alexandria versus Wapahani semifinal will take place immediately after Frankton meets Monroe Central at 11 a.m.