Cantrice Voce has gotten used to watching her Cold Springs volleyball team start out slow in the first set of many matches this season.
So when the coach saw Fairview give the Eagles all they could handle in the opening frame of a winner's bracket match at the Cullman County Volleyball Tournament on Tuesday, Voce figured her squad was just heating up.
And she was right.
After a tight first set (25-22), Karlee Perdue and Cold Springs came out swinging in the second (25-9), taking advantage of its top-seeded status to move straight on to Thursday's winner's bracket final versus No. 2 Good Hope.
“Once they get warmed up, they're on fire,” Voce said. “But it takes them a little while.”
Perdue set the tone for the second set with six straight service points, including back-to-back aces, and continued to contribute in every way imaginable en route to the easy victory. The senior sensation's solid effort showed in her stat line — nine assists, five aces, four kills, two tips, one block and one dig.
Brittany Hopkins showcased her power with five kills, four tips and three aces. Hanna Harbison was also extremely helpful, racking up four digs, three tips, two kills and one block.
“Karlee, when she's on defense, we're not hardly ever going to lose, period,” Voce said. “And she was on. As the setter, sometimes she gets sucked into the net and wants to stay there, so when she's on defense, we're a hardcore team.”
Following a three-set thriller against fifth-seeded West Point, No. 4 Fairview extended its strong play into the first frame versus Cold Springs before fizzling out in the second.
Melody Manasco pitched in a little bit of everything for the Aggies, finishing with six assists, three kills, two aces and two digs. Taylor Edge pitched in five digs, three blocks and two kills; Kennedy Trimble, seven assists and four digs; and Phoenix Janusus, three kills and one ace.
As the No. 1 seed, Cold Springs enjoyed a first-round bye and then only had to endure the one match before calling it a day. It'd be easy to imagine the Eagles were overjoyed to be one-and-done, but Voce indicated otherwise.
“We'd love to be playing right now,” she said. “They just thought they were going to get to play another one, and they were like, 'What? It's over?'”
The Eagles' basketball, cross country, and track and field programs have experienced no shortage of success at the county level over the years. It was extremely easy to tell what was keeping Cold Springs motivated on the volleyball court early Tuesday evening.
“First county championship. Ever. In the history of county tournaments,” Voce said. “We're very driven, and it's not homecoming week, so we might have a chance (laughs).”
The victory improved the Eagles, the No. 6 team in Class 2A, to 27-5 heading into Thursday's winner's bracket clash against Good Hope, the ninth-ranked team in 3A.
Speaking of the Raiders, they wasted little time getting their tournament off to a fast start.
For the past two years, Rosemary Brown’s squad has come up short its in bid for an astonishing 16th county crown during the coach’s longtime tenure at Good Hope.
If Tuesday’s play was any indication, the Red and White could be well on their way to making amends to that piece of data.
The Raiders overpowered Hanceville 25-7, 25-7 in their first match of the afternoon before rolling over Holly Pond 25-17, 25-13 to secure a spot in the winner’s bracket final heading into Day 2.
“We are getting better,” Brown said. “The ball fell our way tonight. Holly Pond’s got a good hitting team, but my blockers did a really good job against them.”
The Raider D was certainly on point against the Broncos, shutting down their big hitters — Natasha Holcombe and Taylor Rowell — at the net, while the offense came up with big point after big point to pull away in each set.
For the match, Kayla Scott led the way with 10 kills and six pass assists, while Katelyn Bishop contributed eight kills and three blocks. Kaylee Maddox was good for four kills and four aces. Alannah Henke added four kills and two blocks. Sierra Kinser was solid across the board with three kills, three pass assists and three blocks.
The Broncos’ Rowell finished with six kills, while Holcombe, a fellow senior, had two kills and two blocks. Kristen Sparks was ever helpful with 21 sets.
Maddox and Scott contributed six kills each in Good Hope’s match against the Bulldogs, while Bishop added five herself.
Though Brown might have her Raiders peaking at just the right time, she’ll have to use all her coaching prowess if she hopes to get past a very tough Cold Springs squad on Thursday.
“I haven’t seen them play yet this year,” the coach said. “We will just go in there and play our game. Then we can see where we are after one set and make adjustments if we need to.
“They had a good team last year, and I’m sure they have a good one this year, too.”
The squads will kick off Thursday’s action when they meet up for their showdown at Jesse George Gymnasium at 4 p.m.
Fairview and Holly Pond will follow at 5 p.m. The winner will then get right back to work against the loser of the Cold Springs-Good Hope match.
See below for capsules and stats from the rest of Tuesday’s action:
% Holly Pond 2, Vinemont 0: The defending-county champion Broncos easily dispatched the Eagles 25-16, 25-21 to get their tournament started on Tuesday afternoon.
Rowell contributed 11 kills, while Holcombe and Melissa Clingman each finished with five.
% Fairview 2, West Point 1: After dropping the first set 25-27, the Aggies answered back in the final two frames (25-21, 15-12) to complete the comeback victory.
The teams played to a tie 17 times in the first set and 26 times overall.
Top contributors for Fairview were Janusus, seven kills, five digs, four blocks and one ace; Manasco, 11 assists, 10 digs and four kills; Edge, 16 digs, five blocks and one kill; and Kylee Yancy, six digs and four aces.
Top contributors for the Warriors were Taylor Vest, seven kills and two blocks; Madison Rusk, four kills and two blocks; Cassidy Hollaway, eight digs and two aces; and Lexi Bell, 12 assists, two digs and a kill.
% Holly Pond 2, West Point 0: The Broncos upended the Warriors in a rematch of last year’s title tilt.
Holly Pond won the first set 25-18 but trailed 19-10 in the second before storming back to tie it at 23-all.
After a couple of back-and-forth points, the Broncos’ Rowell and Holcombe were simply too much at the net for West Point, as the Green and White went on to win the final set and the match 31-29 and move on to Thursday’s consolation bracket final against Fairview.
Stats for both teams were unavailable.
% Vinemont 2, Hanceville 0: The Eagles eliminated the Bulldogs by scores of 25-22, 25-17.
Top contributors for the Eagles were Kiersten Simmons, 28 sets, one ace and one dig; Caitlin Kuykendall, 19 sets; and Kristi Davis and Grace Griggs, one ace and one dig apiece.
Stats for Hanceville were unavailable.
% Fairview 2, Vinemont 0: The Aggies eliminated the sixth-seeded Eagles in the final match of Day 1.
Stats for both teams were unavaliable.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com. Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136.