SAND ROCK – There have been years where Sand Rock volleyball coach Lisa Bates’s stress level has gone through the roof on the day of the Cherokee County Tournament. That’s because of the way her teams didn’t perform up to expectations.
But this year, Bates found Saturday to be a pretty calm day.
The top-seeded Lady Wildcats swept their way past Cherokee County (25-12, 25-5) and Spring Garden twice (25-17, 25-21 and 25-15, 25-15) on their way to winning their 10th county volleyball title and their fifth in the last six years.
“My stress level was pretty low because they were hustling,” Bates said. “That’s nice to see them doing what they can do. I felt like we didn’t have any freak-out moments today. It was focused, like we needed to be, and I was proud of that. They really played well together today.”
The Lady Wildcats (31-6) also spoiled Spring Garden’s bid to earn its second straight county championship.”
“The best team in the county is the county champs,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “They’re good. They’re solid. They don’t make many mistakes. When they did make mistakes, it’s hard to take advantage of them. If they give you an easy ball where you think you can attack it, you’ve still got to earn it. They’re way ahead of everybody in our county right now.”
The Lady Panthers (25-7) earned their way to the title match against Sand Rock by sweeping Cedar Bluff (25-15, 25-13). After falling to Sand Rock in the winners bracket, Spring Garden rebounded to eliminate Cherokee County (25-14, 25-20) to earn a rematch with the Lady Wildcats in the tournament final.
But just like their earlier meeting, the Lady Panthers found it hard to establish any momentum against Sand Rock.
Leading 16-12 in the first set of the title tilt, the Lady Wildcats closed things out on a 9-3 run. Spring Garden scored the first three points in the second set and led at one point 8-5, but the Lady Wildcats reeled off five straight points to take the lead. They outscored the Lady Panthers 20-7 in the stretch run.
“We didn’t let them get on big runs,” Bates said. “It seemed like today we were very focused, very ‘let’s handle our business.’
“I thought we passed extremely well today. We were putting the ball on the money with McKenna (Ballenger) today. That gave us a great opportunity to spread things out. We set it to a lot of people, and a lot of people got kills. That’s because of our passing. We kept being the aggressor. Even when they got a couple of balls down, we didn’t let them get on four or five point runs. We made some big plays to stop it.”
Ballenger collected 75 assists and 18 digs for the day. Lanie Henderson contributed 24 kills and a pair of blocks. Katelyn St. Clair came away with 21 kills, 23 digs and two blocks. Jadyn Foster delivered 19 kills and three aces. Caley Garrett posted 52 digs. Jacey Stephens had 11 kills and 2 aces and Chloe Stephens added 10 kills, 19 digs and five aces. Rylin St. Clair finished with five aces.
Alle Jennings posted 21 kills, two aces, two blocks and a dig for Spring Garden. Suzie Carter collected 15 kills, seven blocks, three aces and an assist. Neely Welsh added 14 kills, four digs, two blocks and two assists. Abbey Steward posted 48 assists, a dig and an ace. Maggie Jarrett had six kills. Aubrey Sadler added two kills and two assists. Timi Scoggin came away with five aces. Abbie Woods delivered an ace and a dig. Tatum Page finished with a dig.
Cherokee County opened the tournament by defeating Gaylesville 25-15, 25-19. After falling to Sand Rock, the Lady Warriors eliminated Cedar Bluff 28-26, 25-23.
Cedar Bluff eliminated Gaylesville with a 25-21, 25-14 win.