St. James wins 4A volleyball title; MA falls in five sets to Bayside
By Tim Gayle
BIRMINGHAM - St. James won its third state volleyball title on Thursday afternoon at the Crossplex, defeating Deshler 21-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-19 to win the Class 4A state title.
It was the first championship for Trojan coach Karen Lee, who was promoted from middle school coach in 2015 and finished as state runner-up in 2015 and 2016.
In Thursday’s finals, the Trojans dropped the first match before storming back to take the next three in a best-of-five series. St. James opened play with a sluggish start, but rallied back to tie the first set at 16-16 before falling behind again.
In the second set, the Trojans broke a 5-5 tie with five consecutive points, then cruised to victory. In the third game, the score was tied on five separate occasions early before St. James pulled away from a 15-13 lead. In the fourth game, the score was tied four times before Deshler pulled into a 13-9 lead. St. James scored the next 11 points, using four kills by Carson Ann Crow, to take command and win its first state championship in volleyball since 2003.
Crow was named the most valuable player of the state tournament and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates LizAnne Livings and Emily Osley, along with Deshler’s Kandice Ricks, Madison Jackson and Karleigh Sledge.
Bailey Williams had eight kills, 16 digs and five blocks, Crow had 21 kills and 16 digs, Livings had 16 kills and seven digs, Olsey had three kills, 29 assists, 12 digs and four blocks, Ashley White had four kills and four blocks, Annie Skoneki had six kills and three blocks, Emily Poundstone had 21 assists and 11 digs, Baylor Belich had 13 digs and Caroline Christie had 11 digs.
Sledge led Deshler (43-15) with 21 kills and five blocks. Ricks added 37 assists and 15 digs.
MA falls in finals
It took five grueling sets before Bayside Academy defeated Montgomery Academy on Thursday night as the Class 3A finals closed out the AHSAA’s 46th State Volleyball Tournament at Bill Harris Arena.
Coach Ann Schilling’s squad extended their current state championship winning streak to 16 in a row in the process with the 23-25, 25-17, 25-21, 22-25, 15-13 victory.
Bayside Academy came into the finals riding the string of 15 consecutive state championships dating back to 2002. Montgomery Academy had four state titles to its credit with the most recent coming in 2013.
Pacing Bayside was 3A State Tourney MVP Brandley Rhodes. The senior had 24 kills and six service aces.
Coach Julie Gordon’s Eagles were paced by senior hitter Caroline Kirkham’s 52 kills and five blocks. Margaret Head had 29 kills and four blocks. Setter Morgan Karst had 70 assists and Ann Lucas Merrick had 36 digs.
Kirkham, Herrick, and Head were named All-Tournament team.