Lions outmatched in state final

Briarwood Christian School senior Sara Kate Bracewell spikes the ball in the Lions' loss to St. Paul's in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A state championship match Oct. 28 at the Pelham Civic Complex. (Contributed/Kristi Ingram)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

PELHAM — First-year Briarwood Christian School volleyball coach Tien Le predicted the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A champion before the season ever started.

Unfortunately for Le and the Lions, his favorite to capture the Class 5A crown was St. Paul’s, the school Briarwood faced in the AHSAA Class 5A championship match Oct. 28 at the Pelham Civic Complex.

Le’s Lions put up a fight before falling to the Saints 15-25, 17-25, 7-25 in the championship match.

“We were outmatched,” Le said. “Really, it was out of our hands. We knew St. Paul’s would have to make mistakes for us to have a chance.”

Sara Kate Bracewell led the Lions (22-18) with seven kills in the championship match. Bracewell added four digs and two blocks.

Katie Briley, who was named to the AHSAA Class 5A All-Tournament team, added six kills and a dig. Kate Carter recorded three kills and two blocks.

Setter Adeline Reiser chipped in a team-high 15 assists. Lizzie Baumbach led Briarwood with five digs.

St. Paul’s made few mistakes as it easily took the opening game. Briarwood made a 3-0 run, which included kills by Briley and Bracewell, to cut the lead to 21-17 late in the game before falling behind 2-0 in the match.

The Lions started the third and final game with a kill by Logan Nasworthy, but the momentum quickly turned in the direction of the tall St. Paul’s squad.

Briley said the Lions struggled with St. Paul’s height on the front row.

“They were taller and quicker,” Briley said. “They were confident and they were on today.”

Le, who led the Lions back to the Class 5A championship match in his first season as head coach, said Briarwood players left everything they had on the court.

“I thought we played well,” Le said. “I’m very proud of our players. I thought we did everything we could do.”