Straughn rallies for area championship over Opp in five-set classic

Published 9:30 am Friday, October 20, 2023

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Faced with a 2-0 deficit, Straughn stormed back and captured the 3A Area 3 volleyball tournament title with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Opp at home Thursday night.

The top-seed Lady Tigers improved their season record to 24-9 with a 23-25, 17-25, 25-20, 25-18, 15-11 win. The second-seed Lady Bobcats fell to 21-8 on the year and finished as area runner-up.

“I told the girls Opp had momentum after winning a big match. We did our volleyball warm-up, and I told them they needed to start strong and get the momentum. We didn’t quit after being down by two, and I said I don’t really know what to say to you because we had a great week of practice. We lost points on little things, and your heart is going to win this match. Opp called timeout in the third set, and I told them they were ready and about to win three sets, which they did. I’m proud of them for not quitting, and I’m excited to go to Montgomery. We will need to play like we played the last three sets tonight,” SHS Head Coach Deidra Burleson said.

Blakeley Smith and Amaya Womack each had two kills as Opp took an early 4-2 lead. Audrey Lindsey cut the deficit to 7-5 with a kill before an ace from Megan Pinson and a kill by Cuba Wiggins stretched the margin to 11-5. Claire Howe delivered an ace, while Ora Hall evened the score at 13-13 with a kill. Smith gave Straughn a 15-14 lead until back-to-back kills from Howe took the lead to 19-17. The Lady Bobcats forced a 20-20 tie and grabbed a 24-22 lead with a block by Wiggins. Smith brought the Lady Tigers within one at 24-23, but Wiggins capped the frame with a kill for a 1-0 lead.

Emily Nelson scored an ace, and Hall added a kill for a 3-1 margin. Carnley Johnson closed the gap to 3-2 with a kill as the two sides played to four ties. Kyleigh Jackson brought the score to 8-8, but Brooke Butler used an ace and put the Lady Bobcats ahead 12-8. Wiggins added two more kills for an 18-11 lead before Ada Blackstock followed suit for a 22-15 cushion. Wiggins ended the second set much like the first and forced the Lady Tigers into a 2-0 hole.

Wiggins had a block for a 2-0 lead in the third set until Jackson cut the deficit in half with a kill. Straughn then drew even at 4-4 with a pair of kills by Mallory Hall. Braleigh Nall gave Opp a 5-4 lead, but Howe blistered two kills and shifted momentum back the other way for a 12-8 lead. A kill by M. Hall followed by an ace from Nelson opened up a 17-11 lead. Two kills off Wiggins and a block from Womack got the Lady Bobcats within two at 17-15. O. Hall took the margin to 21-18 with a kill, and M. Hall had a huge block for a 24-19 lead as the Lady Tigers held on and cut the match score to 2-1.

Lindsey executed a block for a 3-1 lead in the fourth set before Wiggins closed the gap to 5-2 with a kill. Howe also added a block as Straughn took an 8-2 lead. Womack delivered a block and helped Opp pull within one at 10-9. Two kills and an ace from Howe then pushed the margin to 14-9, while an ace by Pinson brought the deficit to 14-11. M. Hall used an ace for an 18-13 margin before the Lady Bobcats crept closer at 18-16. O. Hall scored a kill for a 22-17 lead, and three straight kills by Howe allowed Straughn to even the match at 2-2.

Smith and O. Hall had kills in the opening moments of the winner-take-all fifth set, but attack errors gave the Lady Bobcats a 6-2 lead. Following a timeout, Blackstock had a kill for a 7-4 margin. Smith evened the score at 8-8 with a kill before Howe converted three straight aces and gave the Lady Tigers an 11-8 lead. A kill by Smith and a block from M. Hall took the margin to 13-9. The Lady Bobcats called timeout but could not draw any closer as Howe completed the 3-2 comeback with an area-clinching kill.

Straughn advanced to the championship with a 3-0 sweep against Pike County 3-0 (25-8, 25-14, 25-11) in the tournament semi-finals. Opp defeated New Brockton 3-1 (25-23, 24-26, 25-13, 26-24).

Both teams advance to the South Super Regional at the Cramton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery beginning Wednesday, Oct. 25. The Lady Bobcats face area 1 champion Mobile Christian (37-8) at 9 a.m. on court 2. The Lady Tigers meet area 1 runner-up St. Luke’s (24-21) at 10:15 a.m. on court 1.