Westminster falls in Elite 8

Published 4:30 pm Wednesday, October 31, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

BIRMINHGAM – For the second time in two years, the Westminster at Oak Mountain volleyball team made its way to the Birmingham CrossPlex to compete in the state volleyball tournament’s Elite Eight on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

The outcome was very similar to last year’s matchup with Addison that the Knights lost 3-0, as they went on to get swept again this year by Faith Christian (25-14, 30-28, 25-16), but the improvement was drastic.

Last year’s loss came to the eventual state champion in Class 1A, and this year’s loss may end up in the same outcome, and the Knights had their chances to challenge the Lions.

Early in the first set, Westminster looked a little timid and jittery on the big stage as Faith jumped out to an 8-2 lead. The Knights started playing better after that, but were never able to get closer than five points the rest of the set to fall into a quick 0-1 deficit.

The second set, however, is where the turning point of the match came.

Westminster carried over its improving play from the ladder half of the first set into the second set, where the Knights finally started to look like the 24-4 team coming into the match.

They eventually jumped out to an 11-4 leads, thanks in large part to more aggressive play at the net, not only with kills, but with blocks of several kill attempts.

Westminster went on to extend its lead to 16-6 with another quick 5-0, before Faith woke up and turned back into the team that started the match in dominant fashion.

The Lions went on a 6-0 run of their own to draw within four points after trailing by 10 moments before. The Knights put together a short-lived 2-0 run to take an 18-12 lead, but Faith got right back to its strong play with a 6-1 play to draw to within one point at 19-18.

Shortly after, Faith went on to tie the set at 22-22 before the Lions grabbed their first lead of the set at 23-23.

After trading points, Faith earned set point, but the Knights were able to stave off the point to tie it again.

Westminster then went on to earn set points at 26-25 and 27-26, but couldn’t convert either.

Faith took advantage and won the next three points in a row to claim the second set in thrilling fashion by a final of 30-28 for a 2-0 lead in the match.

The Knights exerted so much emotion and had a chance two different times to even the match at one set apiece, that the loss was a devastating one and forced them to win three sets in a row to keep their season alive.

The Lions went on to take advantage of a Knights’ squad that was having to get over a mentally-draining second set, and jumped out to a 10-1 lead.

Give Westminster credit, however, as the Knights didn’t give up. They battled back to within three points thanks to an 11-4 run that made the score 15-12.

Faith went on to answer with a run of its own that sealed the match, using a 10-4 run over the final points to end Westminster’s season and advance to the Class 1A semifinals.

Westminster had strong games from Virginia Welch, Payton Metcalf and Bailee Acker throughout, especially at the net.

The Knights finished the season 24-5 overall and will return 13 of 15 players to next year’s team, seven of which will be seniors. Seniors Lauren Murdock and Sarabeth Miller will depart as a part of back-to-back teams that made the state tournament.