By Russell Moore
The Cullman Times
The three-time defending state champion Wallace State volleyball team experienced a rare regular season conference loss last month. It was so unusual it marked the first time in four seasons the Lions endured such a setback.
Wallace State has assured the loss was an aberration, winning 13 of 15 matches since Sept. 8, including its current 11-match winning streak.
“September was a very inconsistent month for us. We played well in certain positions at times and not so well in others,” coach Randy Daniel said. “The early season losses were an eye-opener for us. It showed we still had a lot of hard work to accomplish and needed to focus on getting better.”
Wallace State accepted the challenge, losing only one set over the last month. The Lions hosted Southern Union and Gadsden State on Tuesday, seeking to fortify their perch atop the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) standings for yet another year, entering with a 19-3 overall record and 9-1 mark in league play.
Wallace State’s schedule the remainder of the regular season is littered with conference foes and formidable non-conference tournament opponents in Missouri and Tennessee.
“October is filled with a lot of four-year schools and nationally-ranked junior colleges to give us the best opportunity to improve and play at a high level, which I hope will carry over into the ACCC tournament,” said Daniel, who has won 215 matches in less than five years with the Lions.
Sophomore Erica Baker, the 2011 ACCC/Region 22 Player of the Year, leads the conference in hitting percentage (.512) and is second in kills (205), only five behind teammate Kendra Jackson. Kianna Delaney is third in the league in kills.
Jessica Coombs is first in the conference with 320 digs, while Nicole Penny, a Jacksonville High grad, leads the league in both assists (348) and aces (34).
Wallace State has less than month before it begins pursuit of its fourth consecutive ACCC/Region 22 tournament title and NJCAA tournament appearance. The conference tournament will be Nov. 2-3 at Gadsden.
Meanwhile, the Wallace State soccer team has developed into one of the strongest and deepest in recent history.
The Lions are 10-0-2 this season, posting four shutouts and winning eight matches in a row.
“Our team has bought into the learning aspect and realizes the entire season is a process. They want to work and work to get better each day, so we don’t make many mistakes when it’s postseason time. Each practice and goal is a building block to our postseason goals,” coach Barry Spitzer said. “We’re a relaxed team. We are a good team defensively and we attack well. Our guys don’t stress out if we have to battle back from a deficit or if we have to break a tie to win. It shows this team has great character to stay focused through any situation. We’ve got to keep doing the right things.”
Wallace State hasn’t had to concern itself with too many deficits this season. The Lions have outscored their opponents 36-8 and yielded no more than two goals in any match.
Sophomore defender Swaheb Shubair said this year’s squad is considerably deeper than last season, and that was demonstrated in an 8-0 victory last week against Huntingdon’s junior varsity squad, when six different players scored goals. Joseph Medley and Gabriel Queiroz had two goals apiece and Jason Evans, Jordi Landburg, Francis Fiemawhle and Ibrahim Bakarr each added one.
Wallace State has also received significant contributions from Andrew Agyin-Birikorang, Anthony Agyin-Birikorang, Abdul Bakarr, Uauanisa Kamberipa, Travis Mitchell, Rafael Fagiani, Miguel Santos, Jacob Knight, Roy Dixon Jr. and goalkeeper Nathan Getman.
“Our sophomores have been good examples on and off the field. We have different people leading at different times. One person may lead things during warm-ups while another person takes responsibility in another area,” Spitzer said. “We’ve just got to continue to hone our edges as a team and tweak the things that need to be tweaked to become great.”
Wallace State has two home matches remaining after Tuesday. The Lions host Covenant College’s JV on Oct. 13 at noon and Martin Methodist’s JV on Oct. 17 at 3 p.m. The postseason will in late October at an undetermined location.
Spitzer is five wins shy of 100 at Wallace State during a near seven-year tenure, winning six ACCC/Region 22 titles in the previous six seasons and advancing to the NJCAA District finals on three occasions.