Spain Park beats John Carroll to open season

Spain Park’s Ellie Norton rises to meet the ball during the Lady Jags’ season-opening win against John Carroll Catholic on Aug. 25. (Reporter Photo / Keith McCoy)

Spain Park’s Ellie Norton rises to meet the ball during the Lady Jags’ season-opening win against John Carroll Catholic on Aug. 25. (Reporter Photo / Keith McCoy)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

HOOVER – The 2016 volleyball season started with a bang on Aug. 25 in many parts around the county, but there was not a more exciting and dramatic game than the one that took place at Spain Park High School.

The Lady Jags welcomed in the John Carroll Catholic Lady Cavaliers on Aug. 25 for the first volleyball game of the season for either team. John Carroll won the 2014 6A state title and finished the 2015 season with a 34-8 record and lost to Spanish Fort in the 6A state title game. The Lady Cavaliers are one of the top volleyball programs in the state, and Spain Park had a chance to make an early statement against elite competition.

In the early going however, it did not look good for the Lady Jags as they promptly fell behind two sets to none. The first set was dominated primarily by John Carroll, as the Lady Cavs led 9-3, 15-8, 17-9 and 20-12 before holding off a late Spain Park push and eventually getting the 25-21 set win to go up 1-0.

The second set was closer, but still eventually went to the Lady Cavaliers. Spain Park led by scores of 7-5, 10-9, 12-10 and 14-13 before John Carroll snatched the lead midway through the set. Spain Park grabbed the lead back quickly at 20-19, but John Carroll eventually took that set as well to go up 2-0.

While most teams would have and could have folded in the face of a 2-0 hole to start the year, Spain Park did not play like most teams on this night. The Lady Jags came all the way back from down two sets to none and got the close, five-set win, 21-25, 23-35, 25-20, 25-21, 15-11.

Marlee Johnson had 30 kills and nine digs, Sha’Kevia Hogan had 20 kills and 12 digs and Ellie Norton had 54 assists to lead Spain Park.