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September 16, 2013

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Battered Bulldogs cruise to 2nd straight Donoho Classic title

ANNISTON — Friday the 13th was supposed to be anything but unlucky for the Addison volleyball team.

It was homecoming, and, after missing three weeks with a lingering knee injury, setter Holly Posey had been released to return just in time for the weekend’s Donoho Classic, a who’s who in Class 1A volleyball.

As the universe tends to do, however, it evened out one injury with another, as senior leader and outside hitter Kayla Robinson broke her foot during the Bulldogs’ Friday-morning practice, which had been rescheduled to accommodate the several girls who made their respective homecoming courts.

The loss of such an important piece of the puzzle would’ve hindered most programs at such a high-stakes tournament, but Addison isn’t your average program. The perenially powerful Bulldogs pooled together, turned their misfortunes into motivation and took down ranked opponents in four of their five matches to win the Donoho Classic for a second consecutive year.

No. 1 Addison started Saturday with straight-set victories against No. 7 Holy Spirit (25-12, 25-15), Jefferson Christian (25-18, 25-18) and No. 8 Spring Garden (25-13, 25-13) before making quick work of No. 3 St. Luke’s (25-16, 25-17) in the semifinal and No. 2 Donoho (25-13, 25-10) in the championship.

“I think a lot of it is we just can’t seem to get healthy, so we just started playing hard,” longtime Bulldog coach Pam Wilkins said. “We’ve been through a lot since this season started. We were pretty determined.”

Wilkins said it took a team effort to snag the title, and it showed in Addison’s stats. Jessy Taylor had 12 blocks and led the squad in kills (36) and aces (17), while Summer Hinton racked up 28 kills, nine aces and a team-high 36 digs.

Other Bulldog contributors included Jessica Robinson, 15 kills, nine aces and three blocks; Jessica Benton, 10 kills and seven blocks; Lauren Cutcher, 20 digs and five aces; Kelsey Denson, 25 assists; and Carly Westmoreland, 21 digs.

Posey, who played sparingly until being let loose in the final match, had 95 assists and 16 digs in her return.

“That’s the good thing about us,” Wilkins said. “We don’t have one or two players playing well. We have several.”

Aside from its unfortunate string of injuries, Addison’s 2013 campaign has so far played out extremely similarly to the way it did in 2012, when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 for much of the season, beat the Falcons to win the Donoho Classic and then lost to the Falcons in the 1A state championship for the second year in a row.

On Saturday, Wilkins said her squad talked about what it’ll take to avoid extending that slide to three.

“I think we’re a little older now,” she said. “I just hope we don’t play nervous because that’s what happened last year. We’re hoping our maturity and our age helps us a lot, and I think it has been.”

If Addison is able to work its way back to the state final, Wilkins isn’t 100-percent positive Donoho would be the team standing on the other side of the court. Based on Saturday’s semifinal, the coach said St. Luke’s looked like a legitimate contender for one of the two championship berths.

Wilkins said Robinson was expected to have a CT scan taken of her foot on Monday, which would hopefully shed more light on the extent of the injury.

“We’re hoping she gets to come back,” the coach said. “She’s our leader, so it’s just hard.”

The Bulldogs, now 20-3, will travel to Falkville today for an area match.

% The Times’ sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.

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