By Erik Harris
North Jefferson News
It’s been said that you measure a championship caliber team by the way they respond to adversity. If that is in fact a reliable source of measure, you have to like Clay-Chalkville’s chances when volleyball playoff time arrives.
The Cougars slashed their way through the Jefferson County Large School Volleyball Tournament with little resistance until the first set of the championship match with Shades Valley, which they dropped 16-25.
After a short team meeting in the hallway, Clay stormed out to win the last two sets 25-11, 15-12 and claim the hardware Saturday at Mortimer Jordan.
“I told them that we’ve worked too hard to play that way,” said Cougars coach Jeannie Hannah. “I told them that they better fix it and they did fix it.”
After the meeting, Clay took the court with a team mentality. The Cougars scored kills from eight different players in the final two sets. Sarah Rouse led the way with three kills and two blocks.
After winning the tournament, Clay improved their overall record to 28-14.
“I usually let [the players] take the trophy home,” said Hannah. “But I told them if they won it tonight I got [the trophy], so my daughter and I are taking it home.”
Both Mortimer Jordan and Gardendale were sent home by Shades Valley. Jordan lost their first-round match with Pinson Valley, defeated Hueytown in the loser's bracket and fell to the Mounties in the third round.
The Rockets lost both of their matches to Shades. They stumbled in the first round with a two-set sweep. The Mounties won both sets by just two points.
After beating McAdory and Pinson in the loser’s bracket, Gardendale earned another shot at Shades Valley. The Rockets struck first with a 25-21 victory in the opening set; Cassie Snow led Gardendale with four aces, a block and a kill. Gardendale came out red-hot in the second set with an early 13-3 lead, but sputtered and nosedived to a 26-24 loss. The Mounties’ momentum carried over to the final set, which they won 15-13.
“We’ve had our times when we play awesome as a team and it works for us, and then we have times when we don’t play so hot,” said Gardendale coach Lauren Morrison. “We give games away.”
Katy Belcher recorded six blocks, six kills and a single ace in the Rockets’ final match of the day.