Westminster at Oak Mountain headed to Class 1A State Championship

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

BIRMINGHAM – Two straight years of heartache were thrown out the window for the Westminster at Oak Mountain volleyball team on Wednesday, Oct. 30, as the Knights won two matches in a row to punch a ticket to the 2019 Class 1A State Championship match.

The last two years, the Knights have fallen in the Elite Eight to end the season short of their ultimate goal, but this time around a thrilling five-set victory against No. 1 Athens Bible ended that, before they then went on to down Phillips in the semifinals 3-1 to punch a ticket to the title.

In the opening match against Athens Bible, Westminster fell behind early and dropped the opening set 25-22.

But, in what became the theme of the day, the Knights bounced back with two consecutive set wins.

In the second set, Westminster put together its own 25-22 set to even the match at 1-1. That led into a wild third set that saw the teams battle in a back-and-forth affair, eventually equaling to a 19-19 tie late.

From there, however, the Knights were able to close the set with a 6-2 run to pick up a 25-21 victory in the set and a 2-1 lead in the match.

But with its season on the line, Athens Bible responded despite Westminster having all of the momentum. The Trojans put together a 25-21 set victory of their own to force a fifth-set tiebreaker.

In the tiebreaker, however, the Knights found the same form they had in the second and third sets jumping out to a quick 6-2 lead. That set the tone for the rest of the set, as the Knights made sure they weren’t going to be one and done at the state tournament this season thanks to a 15-8 win in the fifth set.

With that win, Westminster advanced to the Final Four and into a matchup with Phillips, who upset defending champion Pleasant Home in the Elite eight. Both entered the match off of five-set victories, but it was the She Bears who were able to get warmed up quicker in the semifinal match.

Westminster fell behind 6-3 early, but bounced back to take the lead shortly after at 10-9 thanks to a 7-3 run. Phillips then went on to take a strong 20-16 lead late, and while the Knights cut it to 20-19, the She Bears went on to close the set out with a 5-1 run to pick up a 25-20 opening-set win.

That early deficit seemed to flip a switch inside the Westminster huddle moving into the second set, as the Knights looked like a different team the rest of the match.

Westminster jumped out to a 12-3 lead in the set and led by at least five points the rest of the match to pick up an easy 25-14 victory, which evened the match at 1-1.

In almost identical form, the Knights jumped out to another 12-3 lead in the third set and led by as many as 10 at one point in the set. Phillips closed the gap to five at 20-15, but Westminster finished with a 5-2 run to win their second set in a row, 25-17.

Now, with their season on the line, the She Bears came out with a fighting attitude in the fourth set and took an early 4-0 lead.

But the momentum couldn’t be stolen away from the Knights that easily, as they responded with a 6-0 run to jolt in front 6-4. The rest of the set saw neither team take more than a four-point lead, as Westminster jumped in front 20-16 late.

The She Bears, however, bounced back with an 8-2 run to take a late 24-22 lead.

Westminster killed off both of those set points and went on to kill off one more at 25-24, before finishing off the final two points for a 27-25 fourth-set win that sent the Knights to the state championship.

Westminster will take on No. 3 Donoho in the Class 1A title game at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31, inside Bill Harris Arena.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.