Chelsea goes 3-1 in Juanita Boddie pool play in run to knockouts

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, August 29, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HOOVER ­– The Chelsea Hornets bounced back from a season-opening loss to Thompson with a run to the knockout stage of the Juanita Boddie Tournament at Simmons Middle School and Hoover High School on Aug. 25-26.

The Hornets finished pool play with a 2-2 record, which was good enough to earn a spot in the knockout stage, where they fell in the opening round of the Gold Bracket.

Chelsea opened up their pool play schedule on Friday with a hard-fought match against fellow Birmingham team Shades Valley. The first set was very close and nearly went to extra points, but the Mounties secured the opening set win with a 25-23 victory.

Chelsea bounced back strong in the second set and took the frame, 25-17, to force a third and decisive set in the match. The Hornets came out and dominated the final set, taking it 15-5 to earn a 1-0 record to start pool play.

MK Dojonovic won seven service aces over the course of the match, while Lauren Buchanan was the kill leader with six.

For their second match of pool play, the Hornets took on the Orange Beach Makos. The opening set came down to the finish, but Chelsea took the set, 25-23, to earn the lead in the match.

From there, the Hornets came out ready to finish the job and won the second set, 25-18, to earn the sweep victory in the match and finish the day undefeated.

Buchanan earned nine kills and five digs to lead the Hornets in both categories, and Dojonovic made contributions all over the court with five assists, four digs and three service aces. Haley Trotter won three aces during the match, while Cara Belcher led Chelsea with nine assists.

The next morning, Chelsea resumed pool play with a matchup against an out-of-state opponent when they took on Columbus out of Georgia.

The Hornets and Blue Devils opened the match with a very tight first set as the teams figured each other out, and Chelsea just got the edge in the opening set with a 25-21 win to go up 1-0 in the series.

Then, Columbus rallied back with an emphatic 25-13 second set win, which shifted the momentum in the Blue Devils’ favor and forced Chelsea to have to recover in the third set to win the match.

The final set came down to the wire, and it took extra points to decide the match. Chelsea won the match by the finest of margins with a 16-14 third set win thanks to the great play that the Hornets showed in crunch time. With the win, the Hornets improved to 3-0 in pool play.

Buchanan hit the double-digit kill mark after earning 12 kills off a 38.7% kill percentage. Belcher had 16 assists while directing traffic, Reagan Sartin led the Hornets in digs with seven and Trotter, Alexis Rudolph and Lila Willett each earned two total blocks.

Fresh off a big win in a grueling match, Chelsea took on Bob Jones with hopes of closing out an undefeated run in pool play. The Hornets launched straight into another tight set after the down-to-the-wire third set in the last match.

The Patriots ultimately took the first set, 25-22, to take the early lead in the match. With the momentum on its side, Bob Jones jumped out in the second set and closed out the match with a 25-12 win in the frame.

Buchanan had six kills and three aces in the match, while Belcher had seven assists and three digs and Dojonovic had five assists.

Then, Chelsea took on Spanish Fort in the opening round of the knockout stage. The Toros opened the game with an impressive 25-14 first set win.

They outpaced the Hornets in the second set to win the frame by an even larger margin of victory thanks to a 25-11 win, which sent Chelsea home from bracket play.

Next, the Chelsea Hornets will take on the Homewood Patriots on the road on Tuesday, Aug. 29 as they face a fellow Birmingham region team before they begin area play.