Anniston, AL – Lady Falcons win 13th state volleyball title in school history with 3-1 win over area and county rival Pleasant Valley; Donoho’s Draper MVP
By Al Muskewitz
The Donoho Lady Falcons, playing under a new head coach in a new competitive division, won the 13th volleyball state championship in their history Wednesday when they beat county and new area rival Pleasant Valley 3-1 for the Class 2A title.
The Lady Falcons won the first two sets 25-18 and 25-22. Pleasant Valley, which has been battling the odds all season, extended the match with a 26-24 win in the third set before the Lady Falcons closed it out 25-16.
“It is just like nearly a dream come true for this group of girls,” Donoho’s first-year coach Anna Taylor said. “To see them do that again and to really be along for the ride to get them to this point and accomplish that it’s truly amazing to see.
“We knew we had to come out very focused with a lot of energy on the front end to sort of jump start, because if you give them one, if you make one mistake, if you get stuck in a rotation, they’re such a good team they’re going to maximize on that, so it was very important for us to minimize our mistakes.”
It was Donoho’s third state title in the last four years, a success that moved them into Class 2A, and second in a row. They won the Class 1A title last year.
Most of their players returned from that team and used that experience to their benefit and offset the unfamiliarity of their surroundings.
“I think there was a lot of newness,” Taylor said, “but with so much experience and confidence coming from the five seniors and even those underclassmen who were with them last year, the new didn’t play a role for them. They knew what to do, they knew how to compete, they knew how to be competitive, they knew how to play under pressure. They knew how to play in the Crossplex. They knew how to play in the Bill Harris Arena.
“So, for us, where the newness might have been something of a distraction or something to put everybody on edge, that was just a garnish on what they have already worked on and all their experience and I think it added to it a little bit. I don’t think it was a hurdle at all. I think it actually just helped us perform better.”
The teams were playing for the sixth time this season. PV won the first meeting of the year in the Fort Payne Tournament, but Donoho won each of the last five, including the finals for the area, regional and state tournaments.
Despite her team’s dominance in the season series, Donoho coach Anna Taylor said overnight “frankly, there’s only one game now that matters.” Taylor took over the program when former coach Jamie Clendenin left in the spring to become Sylacauga’s head coach.
Tournament MVP Lily Grace Draper, playing in her fourth straight state final, led Donoho with 22 kills in the title match. Mary Marshall Perry, another four-year finals veteran, had 13 and Ansley Simmons had 11. Sam Wakefield had 52 assists. Perry and Wakefield made the all-tournament team.
“We knew that was going to be part of our strategy, it had been part of our strategy all year,” Taylor said. “We have our anchors in LG and the experience of Mary Marshall. We have confidence in the back row. We have that confidence and that allows us to build off things.
“We knew LG is going to be somebody who was going to be part of their defense. But I know she’s a smart play, I know she can play around that, so I allowed her play that out and we also had the overall confidence we could go to anybody else when we’re in a bind or when we just mix it up. We just have a really good confidence and rhythm to spread it out across the board.”
Allie Bryant led Pleasant Valley with 12 kills. Lily Henry had 11. Bryant, Henry and Maddie Schwabe made the all-tournament team.
PV staved off elimination by breaking away from a 24-24 tie with the final two points in the third set on kills by Madison Schwabe and Bryant.
“I was very proud of the girls, the way they played today,” PV coach Dana Bryant said. “They gave it everything they had. Half of the team was battling something; they’re sick, so they had a hard time breathing. They had a lot to overcome this whole tournament.
“It would have been real easy to lay down on Set 3 and throw your hands up, but they didn’t. That in itself showed resilience and it also showed they still believed they could do it. They never gave up hope, they played with all their heart, they gave it everything they had, and third set they just did better at keeping the pressure on, staying one step ahead.”
The Lady Raiders battled in the fourth set, too, before Donoho pulled away. The fourth set was tied at 4-4 early then Donoho scored the next four points on a kill by Mary Marshall Perry, two by Ansley Simmons and an attack error.
PV stopped the Lady Falcons’ momentum with a timeout and rallied to get within 10-8, but then it got caught in a few rotations they couldn’t execute at the net and Donoho ran off another six-point flurry with two kills from Draper, one each from Ryals Jones and Wakefield and two attack errors.
|Allie Bryant||12||5||1||17||Ansley Simmons||11||7|
|Madison Schwabe||9||12||Sam Wakefield||7||52||3||22|
|Ella Parris||6||19||2||Blair Kitchen||2|
|Lily Henry||11||1||2||9||2||Ryals Jones||6||4|
|Maddie Schwabe||1||29||2||21||Estella Connell||9||3||4|
|Madi Hay||1||1||12||3||Hannah Sprayberry||6|
|Janette Turner||2||1||Lily Grace Draper||22||2||34|
|Mary Marshall Perry||13||1||8||4|
Ohatchee 3, Opp 0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-13)
Prattville Christian 3, Ohatchee 1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-14, 26-24)
The Lady Indians, playing in the state tournament for the first time since 2009, reached the semifinals with a 3-0 victory over Opp.
Jorda Crook had 15 kills, eight digs, three blocks and three aces. Rebecca Henderson had three kills, four digs and two aces and Alanah Fitch had 12 digs, seven assists and three aces. Hannah Fitch had 13 assists.
The Lady Indians drew even with Prattville Christian in the semifinals after winning the second set, but PCA won the next two sets to end the Lady Indians’ season and earn a spot in Thursday’s state title match.
Spanish Fort 3, Oxford 1 (20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-14)
|Sadie Grace Morrison||4||6|