Daily file photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
It’s a second straight trip to the state volleyball tournament for Hartselle’s Alex Holmes (24), Kaitlin Faulkner (2) and their teammates.
Hartselle reloads, makes state again
Graduation losses put Lady Tigers down but not out
By Mark Edwards
HARTSELLE — Hartselle’s volleyball team likes to watch a movie the night before a particularly big match, and senior Dana Lacey figures she has the perfect choice to watch before the Lady Tigers’ state tournament appearance Wednesday.
She already owns “Miracle” and plans to bring it along when the team travels to Pelham for the tournament.
Some might consider that an appropriate choice, because to them, it might seem like a miracle that Hartselle got this far.
Oh, don’t worry — the Lady Tigers already know that many doubted that they could match the accomplishments of last year’s team, which earned the school’s first state volleyball tournament trip. Hartselle lost its three star players to graduation — Daily all-area selections Kayla Orr, Mary Virginia Reeves and Lauren Drake — and faced a big rebuilding year.
But instead of getting down about the lack of faith, they used it as motivation.
“We came into this year wanting to prove that we were as good as last year’s team,” said Lacey, who made the all-tournament team at regionals.
Said Shauna Clemons, another senior: “People were looking at last year like it was a one-time thing.”
Then Candice Light, a senior as well, smiled and added, “No, sir, it wasn’t.”
Behind the leadership of five seniors, including Lacey, Light, Clemons, Emily Roden and Kaitlin Faulkner, Hartselle has posted a 43-23 record, won the Class 5A, Area 13 tournament, finished third in its regional and won a tough five-game sub-state match at Gardendale.
It all adds up to a trip to the Class 5A state tournament, which begins with a quarterfinal match Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. against defending champion St. Paul’s. If Hartselle wins, it will play a semifinal match later that day at 5:30 p.m. Last year’s squad lost in the semifinals.
“Before the season, I thought they had the potential,” Hartselle coach Tanya Lybarger said. “But I knew they had big shoes to fill.”
Reeves and Drake helped give Hartselle a big-hitting front line last year, and Lybarger figured this year’s squad would have to rely on defense provided by an experienced back line, including Clemons, Roden and Light.
But the front line has performed well, too, including Faulkner, Lacey and Chandler Orr.
“I didn’t think we as much a big-hitting team as we were, but they’ve proved me wrong,” Lybarger said, smiling. “Our kill percentage isn’t far off from last year’s.”
Lybarger said the strength of this year’s team is its unity and energy. The seniors follow that line of thinking by emphasizing that they don’t make any decisions about the team without having input from everyone.
“It’s not just about the seniors,” Roden said.
Added Faulkner, finishing her teammate’s thought: “We want to include everyone.”
And if you need proof of the team energy, go back to the sub-state match at Gardendale, when Hartselle pulled out an emotional, up-and-down victory 25-23, 33-35, 25-20, 15-25, 15-10.
Light said she cried when it was over. Clemons said she was exhausted — and joked that she had been tired since the second game.
Lacey said she and her teammates simply took the home crowd’s energy as their own.
“Whenever they cheered, we got excited,” she said.
Now Hartselle gets its reward.
The team’s parents showed a highlight videotape Sunday. The school is giving the team a good sendoff to Pelham, with a pep rally scheduled for Tuesday. Hartselle students are allowed out of school, as long as they buy a ticket and a school administrator signs it at the match.
“I hope this starts a trend,” Light said.
“I hope the team here keeps going back to the state tournament.”
Hartselle volleyball at a glance
Class 5A state tournament:Earned a berth for the second straight year. The LadyTigers reached the semifinals last year.
Opening match: Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. against defending state champion St. Paul’s, which beat Hartselle earlier this season.
Accomplishments: First in Class 5A, Area 13 tournament; second in Morgan County and Brewer tournaments; third in regional tournament; won sub-state match at Gardendale.
Individual honors:Cerra Little, most valuable player of Area 13 tournament and all-tournament at county championships; Dana Lacey, all-tournament at county, area and regional championships; Shauna Clemons, all-tournament at area and regional championships; Chandler Orr, all-tournament at county and area championships.
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