Briarwood advances to Elite Eight

Briarwood Christian School sophomore Mallory Whitaker digs up a ball in the Lions' win over Spanish Fort in an Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A sub-state match Oct. 21. (Reporter Photo/Davis Potter)

By DAVIS POTTER / Staff Writer

NORTH SHELBY — The Briarwood Christian School volleyball team’s 2009 season ended with a loss in the semifinals of the Elite Eight state tournament.

The Lions have a chance to make amends this year.

Briarwood (20-17) advanced to the Elite Eight with an 11-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-17 win over Spanish Fort in Match 3 of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A sub-state playoffs Oct. 21.

Adeline Reiser had a team-high 32 assists and nine digs to lead the host Lions. Sara Kate Bracewell filled up the stat sheet with 10 kills, 10 digs and four blocks. Kate Carter tallied 16 digs and six kills while Katie Briley racked up 18 kills and four blocks. Logan Nasworthy added six kills and five blocks.

“This means the world,” Briarwood head coach Tien Le said. “I’m just beyond words right now because we were beaten in the first set, and the kids fought back.”

Even with the one-set deficit, Le said he never sensed panic among his players. Rather, the second-year coach saw some adjustments that needed to be made.

“I know that (Spanish Fort) had studied tapes of us because of the way they came out, so we had to change our game plan,” Le said. “We had to change where we were going to tip, where we had to attack and where to distribute the ball. Even serving. We had to change our serving strategy.”

Not only was Briarwood working to get back even in the second set, the Lions were also looking to get the energy of the fans and students back into the match.

After trailing early in the second set, the Lions regained the momentum and jumped out to a 17-14 lead. It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Briarwood once again fell behind 10-8 early in the third set, but the Lions got the lead at 14-10 and held it once again to get the win in the third set with each point and each set win seemingly accompanied by a cheer from the fans and chant from the Briarwood students.

The Lions captured a victory in the fourth set to finish off the visiting Toros.

Le said his team fed off the energy of the home fans.

“The crowd made a huge difference. I think the crowd also helped intimidate Spanish Fort,” Le said. “The way Spanish Fort had us down in the first set and the second set, we couldn’t have done it without the crowd.”

Briarwood will take on John Carroll Catholic (16-23), the Match 8 winner, in the Class 5A quarterfinals Oct. 27 at 2 p.m. at the Pelham Civic Complex.