The Augusta Lady Orioles took the long road against some familiar foes on their way to the Class 4A Caney Valley substate championship title.


Although the Lady Orioles hadn’t played their first round opponent before this season (Parsons), they were very familiar with their opponents in the semifinals (Circle) and championship matches (El Dorado).


 


The Augusta Lady Orioles took the long road against some familiar foes on their way to the Class 4A Caney Valley substate championship title.

Although the Lady Orioles hadn’t played their first round opponent before this season (Parsons), they were very familiar with their opponents in the semifinals (Circle) and championship matches (El Dorado).

The road started to look very long for the third-seeded Lady Orioles as they came out flat against No. 6 Parsons in the first round of the substate. Parsons was able to make a run to take a 14-8 lead in the opening game of the match before calling a time out. The break settled down the Augusta players as they scored 14 of the next 15 points on the way to a 25-18 victory and an early advantage in the match.

“I don’t know if it was nerves or what it was; but our intensity level needed to be picked up a little bit,” said Augusta volleyball head coach Brian Hallmark. “I don’t know if we went out there and just expected to win without having to work for it. We only have five who had ever been to substate (before Saturday), so there was a lot of unknown going into our first match. Once we overcame our nerves, we took control of the situation.”

The second game saw the Lady Orioles continue to show their dominance of the Lady Vikings as they quickly gained a double-digit lead and closed out the match with a 25-13 decision to advance to the semifinals.

Nellie Gillies had five kills and six digs in the Parsons match, while Liz Smith had four kills, and Alexa Poore, Brianna Weakley and Kara Hall had three kills apiece. Ashley Schwemmer assisted on 11 kills in the match, while Taylor Hallmark, Gillies and Poore had six digs apiece.

The Lady Orioles’ semifinal opponents was against the No. 2-seed Lady Thunderbirds, a team Augusta hadn’t beaten since the 2006 Class 4A state tournament semifinals (including losing in three games earlier in the week at Circle). 

Most of the match was a mirror image of their earlier meeting — the Lady Orioles started strong and took the first game of the match 25-19, only to see Circle come back and win the second game 25-15 and pull ahead in the third game by as many as six points.

Then the Lady Orioles buckled down and willed themselves back into the match with six straight points to give themselves two chances to win, but Circle was able to mount one final charge to give themselves a match point opportunity at 25-24. Augusta was able to record three kills after that point, the last giving them their upset victory and sending them to the championship game.

 “I figured we’d have to play Circle and we were disappointed with our play at Circle (on Tuesday), but the girls knew we could beat them,” Hallmark said. “To steal a quote from my favorite NASCAR driver, Jeff Gordon; we just ‘refuse to lose.’ The girls came up with the perfect plays at crunch time. That’s when winners come through.”

Poore had 16 kills and 12 digs to lead Augusta over the Lady Thunderbirds, while Gillies had 12 kills and two blocks. Schwemmer had 15 assists and Madison had 12 more, and Taylor Hallmark led the team in digs with 19. Hall had three kills and Weakley had two blocks in the pivotal third game as they continued to show their improvement from the beginning of the season.

Hall, Poore and Brasfield led the Lady Orioles charge in the first game of the championship match against the rival Lady Wildcats. Poore and Hall had five kills apiece for Augusta in that set, while Brasfield blocked three El Dorado kill attempts to help Augusta to a 25-21 victory and a one-game lead in the match.

The second game saw the Lady Wildcats (17-17) come back using their 6-3 middle blocker Brittany Brown to take control of the game like El Dorado had in upsets over Labette County and top-seed and state-ranked Independence in the first two rounds. Brown used both her kills (five kills) and her serves (four aces) to help El Dorado take a 10-point lead in the set.

But a lengthy conference at the scorers’ table cooled off the Lady Wildcats and reenergized and refocused the Lady Orioles as they stayed loose on the court. The Lady Wildcats won the second game 25-16, but the Augusta players were focus and determined not to let down in the third set. 

“At that point, they were just confident,” Hallmark  said. “We were playing an opponent that we had played three times and the only time they had beat us was when we let them come back and make a big run. We just knew that if just shut down Brittany, then our chances were excellent.”

The Lady Orioles scored the first point of the third game and used a nine-point run midway through the final set. They also were able to handle Brown’s kill attempts and return them for points on the way to a 25-11 victory to complete their destiny and deflate the Lady Wildcats’ dreams of reaching the state tournament. Poore had four kills in the deciding game, while Gillies had three.

Poore led the team with 10 kills and 11 digs, while Gillies had eight kills, Hall seven and Liz Smith six in attacking. Schwemmer had 14 assists for the Lady Orioles, while Madison set up nine kills in the championship match.