Lions’ season ends in Elite Eight

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

BIRMINGHAM – After a tough slog through the middle of the regular season, it would have been tough to predict that the Briarwood Christian volleyball Lions would end up at the Birmingham Crossplex in late October. But after a thrilling 3-1 win over Moody in the 5A Area 8 tournament championship and a pair of early wins at the 5A South Super Regional, that is exactly where Briarwood ended up on Oct. 26.

The Lady Lions, one of only two teams in the field of 56 spread across seven classifications to bring a losing record into the state tournament, upended Carroll and Dallas County High Schools in the first two rounds of the Super Regional to claim their spot in the 5A state tournament, and ended up claiming the No. 3 seed out of the region after beating Rehobeth in the consolation match. That set Briarwood up with a state quarterfinal date with Lawrence County High School, the No. 2 seed out of the North Super Regional.

The match took place at 8 a.m. on Oct. 26, and was a battle all the way through. Briarwood fought for the entire match and had a chance to win each set at the end, but fell in straight sets to Lawrence County 25-20, 25-21, 25-23.

“The girls played hard, they fought, competed for every ball,” Briarwood head coach Jeff Roberston said after the match. “I was very proud of their fight and determination. (We) competed very well against a great Lawrence County team. They were the better team today, and that’s the way it goes.”

While Briarwood brought a 19-22 record into the state tournament, the Lady Lions had spent the majority of their regular season playing top competition from around the state, and it was precisely that level of competition that set them up for a run to the state tournament, Robertson said.

“All season we have embraced the process of not seeing those losses as defeats, but as stepping stones,” Robertson said. “As learning experiences, as opportunities to improve, to get to the next step. We knew that in our regular season, of our 34 matches, eight of them were against 5A (teams), so we knew our level of competition that we’ve been playing was going to prepare us for a run in the postseason.”

Briarwood will only graduate two seniors off of this team, Alexandra O’Brien and Natalie Crumpler, and has a strong group of eight juniors who will return next year as seniors to lead the Lady Lions again next season.

“We’ve got great girls, a great student body came out and supported us today,” Robertson added. “We graduate two seniors and have eight juniors, so we have a strong core coming back. I see us making it back and hopefully going another step next year.”

Briarwood ended the season with a 19-23 record and a trip to the 5A Elite Eight.