Heading into Saturday’s final pool of matches at the Capital City Mayor’s Cup, Trinity senior Marley Sport wasn’t sure how the Wildcats’ volleyball team would perform.
The Wildcats had lost their season opening match to St. James on Thursday, then lost the opener in the Mayor’s Cup to Jeff Davis.
“We started out shaky, nervous, and after that loss (to St. James), we were pretty unsure of what to expect this season,” Sport said. “We had nine new teammates that had never played on the varsity level, and they had big shoes to fill.”
The younger Wildcats grew up quickly, rebounding with wins over Gulf Shores, Alabama Christian, Tallassee and UMS-Wright to reach the championship game, where they upended G.W. Carver 25-21, 25-23 to earn a trophy and congratulations from Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.
“Carver is a great team,” Trinity coach Jessica Lassiter said. “They’re always well coached. They’ve come such a long way. They’re bigger than we are. We’re a young team and (Trinity players) don’t know anything other than playing hard. On paper, Carver, hands down, is the better team. They’re bigger, they’re stronger, they’re older. I really just think our girls’ hearts played into it a lot.”
Carver looked impressive in reaching the finals, winning all four matches in pool play, then defeating Montgomery Academy in three sets with a dominating front line performance.
“It always feels good to beat Montgomery Academy,” Carver coach Virginia Franklin said. “They usually have a pretty good team. It’s just a good victory for us.”
In the finals, Trinity spent a few minutes standing toe to toe with the taller, bigger Wolverines, then changed tactics.
“We tried to find the weakest points in the court and our hitters did awesome in hitting them because that’s tough to change your hit and change everything,” Sport said.
The Wildcats outbattled the Wolverines in the first set, then watched Carver fall apart in the second. The Wolverines staged a furious rally and pull even at 22-22 before coming up short.
“We had great energy and chemistry,” Franklin said. “We had some spurts where we had a mental breakdown but then we came right back. You sort of saw that (in the second game of the finals) and it kind of hurt us. The deficit was just too great. But, overall, I think they did a great job.”
The tournament was the first played in the new multipurpose facility at Cramton Bowl and was used as a tuneup for the Alabama High School Athletic Association super regionals in late October, which is the next scheduled sporting event in the facility.
“It was awesome,” Franklin said. “It was a great idea to be put on by (Montgomery Academy coach) Julie (Sinclair) and Jessica. This facility is awesome. We’re just excited to be in here and to have super regionals here.”
Lassiter agreed, adding the inaugural Mayor’s Cup and the multipurpose facility brought some much-needed visibility to high school volleyball in the region.
“This is huge,” she said. “The athletic association, the city of Montgomery and the schools in this town have worked hard to get something big for volleyball in Montgomery. Volleyball is big in Birmingham and Mobile, but Montgomery has always been under the radar. And to be able to make it to the championship game with another hometown team was awesome.”
Dawson Williams led the Wildcats with 22 kills in six games. Jacqueline Morris had 12 kills and Leeanne Phillips and Ellen Rogers Trotman had 14 kills each. Mary Grace Burks and Ashley Ann Adams combined for 71 assists. Sport said the tournament title showed her a few things about her new varsity teammates.
“This weekend, especially after starting off slow (on Friday), they went beyond our expectations,” she said. “Nothing’s better than winning the championship in this new building.”
St. James finishes 2nd in pool play: The Trojans lost to Carver on Friday 25-22, 25-23, but in pool play, defeated Enterprise 25-18, 25-19; Alma Bryant 25-14, 18-25, 15-7; and Catholic 25-20, 25-14. St. James suffered a tough loss of the first game of the single elimination tournament against Cottage Hill 15-25, 25-22, 10-15.
During the tournament for St. James, Laura Catherine Clark had 41 assists and 16 digs. Lizzie Kean added 34 assists and 24 digs. Win Woodson had 44 digs and 14 kills. Zuri Foster had 65 digs. Regan Riddle had 23 kills and 13 blocks. Amanda Cherry added 22 kills and four blocks. Rebecca Williams had 15 kills.