Lesson from loss propels Eagles to area title

Published 2:56 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2017

MOUNTAIN BROOK – Oak Mountain High School’s volleyball team won the Class 7A, Area 6 tournament on Tuesday, Oct. 24, overcoming the adversity of an upset loss near the end of the regular season to advance to the North Super Regional.

The Eagles fell at home to Spain Park on Oct. 17 with a chance to earn the right to host the area tournament on the line.

Instead, the resulting three-way tie was settled in favor of Mountain Brook, which enjoyed home-court advantage for the tournament and favorable seeding despite losing to Oak Mountain during the regular season.

The Spartans defeated No. 4 seed Huffman in the first match in the tournament and then watched as Oak Mountain and Spain Park played in an elimination match.

OMHS won, 3-1 (25-14, 24-26, 25-18, 28-26), to avenge the regular season loss and advance, and end Spain Park’s season.

“It was very disappointing for us that night,” coach Tien Le said about the loss to Spain Park last week, and added the Eagles underestimated their visitors after watching them turn in subpar performances against other opponents. “To [Spain Park coach Kellye Jordan Bowen’s] credit, when they came to our place, they were ready to go, and we weren’t. It was a good rude awakening for our kids.

“You have to go out and play hard to win no matter who the opponents are, and especially when you’re a favorite because everybody is gunning for you. I’m thankful we were able to rise through it. It was a good blessing in disguise.”

Oak Mountain used that experience to start fast in the area tournament, taking leads of 4-0 and 9-2 in the first set.

Spain Park battled back to 15-14 on an ace by Marlee Johnson, but Oak Mountain’s Kendall Scharbert answered with a kill.

Scharbert, Kaitlyn Lund and Torie Denkers dominated at the net the rest of the set.

Though OMHS took a 6-1 lead in the second set, it was a different story, as Paris Morris tied the score at 14-all with a kill.

The Jaguars found ways to win long rallies, and two crucial blocks by Audrey Rothman provided the cushion they needed to win the set.

Oak Mountain again raced out to an early lead in Set 3, this time 6-1 on an ace by Ashley Treace.

Spain Park could never recover to threaten, even with a late run aided by blocks from Rothman and Shakevia Hogan.

The fourth set was tight the whole way, with neither team leading by more than three points.

Spain Park’s Jessica Veal tied the score for the last time on a tip over the outstretched arms of Oak Mountain’s net players and in front of their other defenders.

Scharbert ended the match with consecutive kills broken up by confusion about whether Oak Mountain had one substitution remaining.

With a berth in the Regional clinched, the Eagles turned right around and won the area tournament with a 3-1 (26-24, 25-23, 21-25, 26-24) victory over Mountain Brook, which will also compete in the Regional.

“It was a tremendous match,” Le said. “We’re in a tough area. It was a very good night for us.”

Oak Mountain will face Grissom at 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, in the first round of the North Super Regional to be played at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.

Like the area tournament, the Eagles will need to win their first contest in the tournament to avoid elimination and advance to the state tournament.

After the first round, the teams are playing for seeding in the state tournament, which is scheduled for Nov. 1-2.

Le said he expects another challenging test in Grissom, which will be playing close to home under the direction of Tanya Broadway, who Le considers the top coach in the state’s 7A classification.

“She’s going to definitely have her kids ready to go,” Le said. “They’ll have their fans cheering for them, and I expect a tough match.”