Last year, there seemed to be a few regional tournament jitters.
This year, it was clear sailing for Pike Road, who swept Elberta and Satsuma in straight sets to advance to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
“It’s huge,” Pike Road coach Joi Washington said. “It sets the tone about who we want to be, what we expect out of Pike Road athletics, first of all, but then Pike Road volleyball.”
From starting the program under Geoff Waring in 2018 as a fledgling 3A program to one that battled in the area tournament semifinals under Washington in 2019, from winning their first area title in 2020 but losing in the second round of the 5A regional to finally breaking through in 2021, it’s a squad that has taken small steps forward with each successive year.
“These girls have worked hard,” Washington said. “In the weight room, they’ve worked hard. In the field, they’ve worked hard. On the court, they’ve worked hard. It’s really good to see them get the fruits of their labor. Last year, I think we were a little big-eyed and shell shocked about being here. This year, I told them to embrace it, have fun.”
Last year, the Patriots looked out of sync in falling to Satsuma. This year, the same two teams matched up again and a more confident Pike Road swept Satsuma 25-18, 25-20 and 25-15 on Wednesday after beating Elberta earlier in the day.
“We kind of got in our groove a couple of weeks ago,” Washington said. “Really just pushing them to show up every single point and give our best. Today, this kind of tournament, this time of year, it’s find a way to win, survive and advance.
“Much respect to Elberta and Satsuma, two really good programs. We’ve been punching it since June so I’m excited for the girls and the program.”
Gracie Branham had 12 kills, a pair of blocks, 19 digs and three aces, Allie Lovrich had 14 kills and 11 digs, Kirsten Hill had 14 digs and an ace and Rylie Fureigh had seven digs, 31 assists and three aces.
With the win, Pike Road earned its first trip to the state tournament, but first the Patriots will attempt to bring home a South Super Regional championship. Pike Road (22-11) will play Providence Christian (27-18) in one semifinal on Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl, while Sylacauga (29-8) will play Bayside Academy (52-6) in the other semifinal.
The two winners will meet for the regional title on Thursday at 6:30 p.m., while the two losers will play in a consolation round, also at 6:30 p.m., to determine the seeding for next week’s state tournament. The Patriots accomplished their main goal on Wednesday, but there’s plenty more at stake in Thurday’s slate of games.
“It’s all mental,” Washington said. “They know we’re playing for the seeding for next week. We made it, that was our goal, now we’ve got to prove we deserve to be there.”
South Super Regional
Demopolis (12-14) 3, Charles Henderson (17-12) 0
Sylacauga (28-8) 3, Rehobeth (22-10) 2
Bayside Academy (51-6) 3, Brewbaker Tech (12-15) 0
UMS-Wright (25-14) 3, Jemison (16-13) 0
Satsuma (25-18) 3, Elmore County (25-12) 0
Pike Road (21-11) 3, Elberta (7-16) 0
Providence Christian (26-18) 3, Shelby County (13-13) 0
Andalusia (16-8) 3, Sipsey Valley (15-11) 1
Sylacauga (29-8) 3, Demopolis (12-15) 0
Bayside Academy (52-6) 3, UMS-Wright (25-15) 0
Pike Road (22-11) 3, Satsuma (25-19) 0
Providence Christian (27-18) 3, Andalusia (16-9) 0
Sylacauga (29-8) vs. Bayside Academy (52-6), Thursday, 2 p.m.
Pike Road (22-11) vs. Providence Christian (27-18), Thursday, 2 p.m.
Consolation finals, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Championship finals, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.