Alcoa advances with runner-up region finish
By Will Estep | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — Alcoa came up short in their bid to win the Region 2-AA volleyball championship on Tuesday night. But even though the Lady Tornadoes night ended in a 3-0 loss to Christian Academy of Knoxville, the season continues for Alcoa.
By winning a come-from-behind semifinal matchup against Gatlinburg-Pittman 3-2, Alcoa guaranteed itself a spot in the Class AA Sectionals on Thursday night as one of only 16 teams that remain alive in Class AA in the state of Tennessee.
If not for a tough comeback by Alcoa (20-23) in the match against the Highlanders, the season would be over for the Lady Tornadoes. After winning the first set, Alcoa dug itself into a hole as Gatlinburg-Pittman won the next two sets.
The momentum moved Alcoa’s way in the final two sets as the Blount County squad won the fifth and final set 15-10. Alcoa’s dominating 25-8 fourth set win, in which they scored 12 straight points with senior Katie Stubblefield serving, gave Alcoa confidence going into the final set.
“That was great momentum going into that fifth set,” Alcoa coach Sam Thomas said. “Volleyball is such a momentum game. When we were able to steamroll in the fourth set, I felt really good going into the fifth one.”
Gatlinburg-Pittman took a 2-1 lead after winning the third set over Alcoa. Thomas then made a lineup change putting Candace Bolton in for the Lady Tornadoes.
“When we got down 2-1, I knew at that point I had to make a change,” Thomas said. “That was Jocelyn Taylor and Maggie Roark being super unselfish allowing Candace to step back in and Madison (Thompson) moved back to right side. They (Taylor and Roark) were so unselfish and so supportive. Couldn’t be any prouder of anybody than those two there than being willing to make that sacrifice.”
Stubblefield put up 18 kills in the win against Gatlinburg-Pittman and her teammate Tiffanie Moore recorded 32 assists in the five-set thriller.
“It’s awesome,” Stubblefield said of going to sectionals. “We went sophomore year and I just remember that feeling and it was awesome. Last year, we were really bummed out because we got put out in the first round in the district and we were done.”
Alcoa lost to CAK in last week’s District 4-AA Championship and came up short again on Tuesday night with a 3-0 loss giving CAK the Region 2-AA title.
CAK (40-12) advanced to the championship game by making quick work of Gibbs, the District 3-AA runner-up. Gibbs lost the three sets 25-9, 25-9, 25-7 to end the season for the Lady Eagles.
Alcoa lost the first set 25-9 in the championship match that also determined who would play at home and who would go on the road in the sectional round.
A 21-19 lead in the second set wasn’t enough for Alcoa as CAK came back and won the set 25-22, forcing Alcoa to win three straight sets to win the match.
That didn’t happen, though, as CAK’s Courtney Shields ended the third set and the match with a kill. Shields finished with six kills and two blocks against Alcoa.
“Very, very proud of how the girls continued to fight,” Thomas said. “I really felt like we had that second set. I really felt like we had the momentum in that one and I knew at that point it was going to be real tough.”
Madison Thompson recorded five kills for Alcoa and Moore added 19 assists in the loss.
Alcoa will play on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the winner of the Sullivan East and South Greene contest.