Not only did Oxford avoid a sweep, the Yellow Jackets took the championship. Any sweeping was done by Oxford in not dropping a set all day.
The Yellow Jackets beat Pell City 25-22, 25-12, 25-8 before knocking off Clay-Chalkville 25-18, 25-12, 28-26 to win the tournament. Both Oxford and Clay-Chalkville advance to the North Super Regional, which begins Friday in Huntsville. Oxford will face Area 10 runner-up Minor, while Clay-Chalkville will open against Area 10 winner Hoover.
“I’m very proud,” Oxford’s head coach Wendy McKibbin said. “We’ve had a good week of practice. The kids played their hearts out.”
Before the Yellow Jackets (27-22) could seek their revenge against Clay-Chalkville, they had to get by Pell City.
The Panthers did not make that easy for them in the first set. When Oxford looked to be pulling away with a 6-2 lead, Pell City answered back with a 4-0 run to tie the set 6-6. The two teams matched each other’s every move. Finally, the Yellow jackets were able to pull away late and claim the set 25-22.
Pell City came out on fire during the second set. The Panthers led 8-4 early on, but the Yellow Jackets managed a 5-0 run to take the lead 9-8
When Oxford took a 14-12 lead, the Yellow Jackets went on a 11-0 run to close the set and won it 25-12.
Oxford also managed to win the first five points of the third set, stretching its run of unanswered points to 16 straight. The Panthers finally broke the streak, but Oxford dominated the rest of the way and won the set by 17 points.
“Pell City came in tonight and played a great match.” McKibbin said. “More scrappy than they’ve been before. They gave us a little bit of a run for our money.”
Oxford took on the defending area champions Clay-Chalkville next. The Yellow Jackets never trailed in the first set. Oxford stormed out to a 5-0 lead to start the set, and the Cougars never got closer than four points.
The second set was a similar story. The Yellow Jackets never trailed and cruised to a 25-12 victory.
The final set was tight until the end. The largest lead of the set was three, and the teams exchanged the lead 14 times. Oxford led 24-22 to reach its first first championship point. The Cougars took the next three points for a 25-24 lead, before Oxford managed to tie it 25-25. The Cougars retook the advantage at 26-25.
But the Yellow Jackets managed a 3-0 run of their own to put away the set 28-26 and claim their area championship.
“We played well the first two games. ... The third game was more of a battle," McKibbin said. "My kids fought. They had a lot of grit tonight, a lot of heart.”
Regan Robertson and Lexie Higgins found themselves on the all-tournament team but it was Breanna Nolen who took home most valuable player honors.
“It feels amazing,” Nolen said. “I played my heart out, I didn’t give up and I just fought.”
Nolen finished with 19 kills, two aces, nine digs and three blocks.
“Breanna Nolen had a great night tonight,” McKibbin said. “She stepped up and she was smart on her selection of hits, when she would tip, when she would hit. She played great tonight”
Higgins finished with seven digs, three aces and three blocks. Robertson added nine digs and one ace.
The Yellow Jackets were also led by Alex Cheatwood with 10 digs, Katey Skinner with 25 assists and six aces and Morgan Whaley with six aces and 30 assists.