By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
BIRMINGHAM — Top-ranked Addison held up its end of the deal. So did No. 2 Donoho. Now it's time to watch the two slug it out in the Class 1A State Volleyball Tournament championship match for a third straight year.
The Bulldogs blew by Winterboro Wednesday and staved off No. 3 St. Luke's in three sets to advance to the title tilt, which will be played at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
After finishing as runners-up to the Falcons each of the last two seasons, senior Kayla Robinson couldn't help but be thrilled to get another shot at the two-time defending champs.
“We've been waiting on it,” the outside hitter said. “We're after revenge. We're ready for it.”
St. Luke's managed to keep it close early and late in the semifinal, but Addison's strong serving, solid ball control and adjustable defense were more than enough to clinch the victory in straight sets (25-19, 25-8, 25-18).
With the Wildcats (42-16) throwing out a few plays the Bulldogs had yet to see this season, coach Pam Wilkins asked her squad to change its defensive gameplan mid-match — and it did, in grand fashion.
Wilkins credited Robinson, one of Addison's two captains, with commandeering the switch in tactics.
“That's what a senior does — she adjusts,” the coach said. “And we asked a lot out of her right there.”
While other players might've been nervous at the thought of playing on the big stage, Summer Hinton welcomed it. The junior packed the power against St. Luke's, rounding up 10 kills and five aces to go along with eight digs and one block.
“I've just wanted to be here already,” the junior said. “I want to get the results.”
The Bulldogs' full team effort versus the Wildcats showed precisely why they've cruised against even the toughest of 1A competition all season.
Jessy Taylor went wild for 13 kills, three blocks and two digs, Holly Posey did whatever was needed with 29 assists, eight digs, three blocks, two kills and one ace, Jessica Robinson provided four kills, three aces and two digs, and Kayla Robinson was good for 10 digs, two aces and one kill.
Jessica Benton's fourth and final block clinched the match. She also had two kills, while Callie Brewer and Lauren Cutcher pitched in five and four digs, respectively.
“We've never really had a true MVP,” Wilkins said. “It's just different people. Everybody has to play well for us to win — we're not a big team — and I think they did.”
Addison needed just 38 minutes to breeze by Winterboro earlier in the afternoon. Posey, Hinton and Taylor led an extremely efficient attack to send Winterboro packing with a quick 25-6, 25-4, 25-5 blowout.
Posey closed out the contest with 12 straight points, including all seven of her aces, at the service stripe. The junior setter was also helpful with 26 assists, two kills, two digs and one block.
Hinton was a sight to behold with 14 kills and two blocks. Taylor also flexed her muscles by pitching in eight aces, seven kills, two blocks and one dig. Kayla Robinson chipped in three aces and one kill.
Donoho (40-10) moved on the championship match for the third year in a row by downing No. 8 Athens Bible (25-16, 25-18, 25-13) and No. 5 Meek (25-14, 25-18, 25-23).
The Bulldogs (54-6) bested the Falcons 25-13, 25-10 at their own tournament just last month. However, the same could be said in 2012, which ended with Donoho outlasting Addison in five sets for the second time in as many seasons.
“We were so young last year, but now we're more mature,” Robinson said. “Honestly everybody on this team, they're all pumped and not nervous now.”
Added Posey: “We have to be the more mature team. We can't let our nerves get to us this time. Last year, our nerves got to us bad.”
Hinton's plans for bringing the Bulldogs their first state title since 2010 and sixth overall were just as simple.
“I think we've all got to play our part and we'll get what we deserve and what we've been looking for, for the last several years,” she said.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.