For the first time this season, Wetumpka was not the first team to reach 20 points in a set during a match against rival Stanhope Elmore. The Mustangs brought the fight to Wetumpka to start Tuesday night’s Class 6A Area 5 tournament and were not backing down in the opening set of the championship match.
Wetumpka rose to the challenge though and survived its toughest area test of the season, scoring eight of the final 11 points in the set to swing the momentum. Wetumpka went on to claim its fourth consecutive area tournament title, defeating the Mustangs for the third time this season, 26-24, 25-10, 25-16.
“This was not a guarantee,” Wetumpka coach DeAnna Smith said. “Stanhope always comes out strong to play us and they had already played an entire match before we got started. We knew that first set was going to be tough. This means a lot to these girls. They wanted this one.”
While trailing 21-18 in the first set, Wetumpka’s Morgan Causey earned a point with a block at the net, starting a run to level the score. Madison Milton recorded two kills in the final four points, setting up Causey who would go on to finish the set with one of her game-high 10 kills.
“That really was a blow to us because we played so hard,” SEHS Virginia Barber said. “Wetumpka is good though. They have a really good team and they are playing well together. I couldn’t be any prouder of our girls for being competitive with them and playing as hard as we did.”
Wetumpka did not let the Mustangs get any closer the rest of the night. Yennifer Gomez led the attack in the second set, recording five of her nine kills to help Wetumpka ease to a commanding two-set lead.
“That was super important,” Smith said. “You always have to play all the way until the end. We got a little more warmed up and I think it had a lot to do with taking that first set from them.”
Stanhope Elmore responded to start the third set, taking an early lead behind back-to-back kills from Kelbi Johnson.
However, Wetumpka retook the lead on another kill from Gomez and it never looked back. Khloe Harris got the final point of the match and finished the night with five kills, one of six players to record a kill for Wetumpka.
Julie Boshell and Hannah Fabel finished with three kills each while Milton finished with a pair. Erin Douglass led the efforts on the back line, recording 36 digs while also picking up three aces from the service line.
“I’m not still real pleased with how we played,” Smith said. “The win is good but we were not firing on all cylinders and that will not be good enough going into sub-regionals.”
Rylie Grimes and Shakeria Washington were the biggest response for Stanhope Elmore, recording eight and seven kills respectively. Johnson finished with five while Saiban Chappell added three blocks.
The Mustangs advanced to the tournament championship by sweeping Benjamin Russell in the opening match. Grimes and Alex Green each recorded 11 kills in the victory.
“We just played with a very good team and I think we gave them a scare," Barber said. "I think if we can play with them, we can play with anybody.”
Both teams advance to Friday’s sub-regional round which is new to this season to help limit the number of teams traveling to Montgomery for the regional round. Wetumpka will play host to the runner up from Class 6A Area 3 while the Mustangs will hit the road to play against that area’s champion. Both matches will be played Friday but time and opponents are yet to be determined.