Both teams advance to the AHSAA North Super Regional in Huntsville that begins Friday. The Panthers (32-15) open against Area 10 runner-up Brilliant (19-10) while Cedar Bluff (16-28) will face highly regarded Lynn (20-8). Friday’s winners in each class continue Saturday morning with quarterfinal matches. Friday’s losers are eliminated.
The winner of Friday’s match between Spring Garden and Brilliant will meet the winner of the opening-round match between Holy Spirit of Tuscaloosa and Decatur Heritage. The four quarterfinal winners advance to the Elite Eight state tournament in Birmingham next week. Two more matches will determine placement in the Elite Eight bracket.
In Monday’s Area 13 championship match, the Panther defeated Cedar Bluff 25-12, 25-19, 25-19.
“We had very few service errors. We had some hitting errors but they were limited,” coach Ben Carroll said. “We kind of upped our game a little bit more. We had a good crowd, a lot of student support. They played well.”
Madison Sides paced the attack with 12 kills and two aces. Sides also had eight digs. Haley Motes had eight kills, Dallas Smith seven and Darby Bryant four. Motes added two aces. Bryant had nine assists, McKenzie Micha eight and Kaylee Cronan six. Motes led on defense with 11 digs and Bryant had 10 digs.
As the title match neared its conclusion, there was “a lot of emotion, especially for the five seniors (Bryant, Cronan, Motes, Smith and Maddie Micha), knowing that that’s the last time they’ll play competitively on that gym floor,” Carroll said. “They were getting pretty emotional when we hit 22 in that last set, knowing it was about to be over.”
To reach the championship match, Spring Garden defeated Collinsville 25-13, 25-18, 25-12 in the semifinals. Motes had 11 kills and two aces against Collinsville. Sides contributed eight kills and six aces. Rachel Scott also served six aces. Smith had six kills and one block. Bryant handed out nine assists and Cronan added six assists. Emory Reedy’s 10 digs were best on defense.
Carroll said limiting unforced errors was one key against Collinsville.
“We just knew we had to play our game and we played our game well,” Carroll said.