After upsetting Donoho at its annual tournament in mid-September, Stora Gilliland saw a lot of holes in the Falcons’ game.
Unfortunately for the senior and her Addison volleyball squad, those holes were plugged by Thursday morning’s 1A state championship rematch in Birmingham, as Donoho bounced back from a first-set loss (19-25), staved off the Bulldogs in the next three (27-25, 25-22, 25-21) and lifted the title trophy for a second straight year.
“I think everybody gave it everything they had, but Donoho just fixed a lot of mistakes,” Gilliland said.
Addison coach Pam Wilkins agreed with her libero (defensive specialist), crediting the Falcons for their vast improvement in the nearly 45 days between meetings.
“I would have to give it to Donoho,” she said. “They didn’t play us that well at their tournament. But today, their defense was really good.”
Based on the first set alone, the Bulldogs appeared poised to exact revenge on the Falcons for dashing their championship hopes in 2011.
Jessy Taylor had the first four of her team-high 19 kills, Chelsea Posey added one of her own, and Summer Hinton and Holly Posey provided big-time blocks to send Addison’s giddy group of girls back to the bench with an early 1-0 advantage.
“I felt like we played with a lot of intensity in game 1, like we knew we could win it,” Wilkins said. “I think we played back on our heels a bit after that.”
From there, Donoho stole the momentum in a hurry, starting the second set with six consecutive points and never looking back. Nearly every single player on Addison’s roster, from Taylor to Chelsea Posey to Hinton to Gilliland to Holly Posey to Kayla Robinson to Ragen Yarbrough to Carly Westmoreland to Jessica Robinson to Callie Brewer, helped the Bulldogs keep it close and even the score late in all three sets, but the Falcons were able to buckle down and do just enough to pull away in each instance.
Many of Addison’s girls were understandably emotional after the loss. No one had to explain to Wilkins why her players were so distraught.
“We do believe we’re going to win, and that’s why it hurts so bad. That’s why you see them crying because we laid it all out there,” she said. “That’s the way you have to be to win. That does say a lot about our kids.”
Taylor and Chelsea Posey were deserving selections on the All-Tournament Team. Taylor, just a sophomore, capped off a sensational two-day showing with 13 blocks to go with her 19 kills, while Posey, one of the Bulldogs’ only two seniors, shone brightly with 23 digs and 11 kills.
Holly Posey was versatile as ever with 31 assists, six blocks and four kills, and Hinton came through in the clutch time and time again with nine kills. Gilliland provided her usual masterful defense with 21 digs.
“Oh my gosh, what a great win for us,” Donoho coach Janice Slay said. “Anytime you play Addison, you are playing quality volleyball. We are very blessed and fortunate to be in this situation to begin with.”
Beating the Falcons earlier in the season might’ve actually ended up working against the Bulldogs in the long run. Tourney MVP Corey Phillis said she preferred playing as the underdog and Jordan Ray said it made Donoho feel as if it “had nothing to lose.”
“Last year, we had previously won, and we had to win again, so we had to go prove ourselves,” Ray said. “This time, we didn’t have to prove anything. We just had to go out and play.”
Despite losing in the finals two years in a row, Addison still has five championships in the last decade. With the talent that Wilkins has coming back next year, the coach has every reason to believe her squad will be right back in the title hunt in 2013.
“We have a competitive spirit at Addison,” she said. “I think our kids are real competitive, and they come in young. We have five sophomores and two ninth-graders starting, so that says a lot about our young coming in real strong.”
Taylor, who will be back next year, was on the same page with her coach, as was Chelsea Posey, who will graduate in the spring.
Posey knows her sister, Holly, has two more years remaining with the Bulldogs, so she’s more than confident her younger sibling will have at least one title to claim by the end of her prep career.
“She wanted this for me. She wanted it so bad, and I knew she gave it her all,” Chelsea said of Holly. “We were the better team. They were just the better team today. They’re (Addison’s) going to come back next year, so Donoho better be ready. Everybody else, too. That’s all I have to say.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.