Thompson, Briarwood, Chelsea, Spain Park perform well at 2023 HeffStrong Tournament

Published 2:02 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HOOVER – The Thompson Warriors, Briarwood Christian Lions, Chelsea Hornets and Spain Park Jags held their own against some of the best teams in the region at the 2023 HeffStrong Tournament on Sept. 22-23.

The annual showcase, which was hosted by Spain Park at the Finley Center in Hoover, saw Thompson and Briarwood reach the quarterfinals and Chelsea and Spain Park both earn places in the knockout round.

The Warriors opened the tournament with a blistering 5-0 start, which included an undefeated run through pool play and a win in their opening knockout round match.

Thompson accomplished that start without dropping a set in those five wins. The Warriors beat Briarwood in their opener, 25-22 and 25-13, before they beat Guntersville, 25-16 and 25-23, on Friday night.

After the Warriors returned on Saturday morning, they started the day with a win over Baldwin County, 25-21 and 25-13, and finished pool play with a win over Siegal from Tennessee, 25-11 and 25-13, to punch their ticket to the knockout stage.

Thompson swept Jasper to open the knockout round with a 26-24 win in extra points in the first set followed by a 25-17 second set win.

However, the Warriors’ run would end in the quarterfinals with a tight loss to Bayside, as Bayside took the first set in extra points, 26-24, before taking a close win in the second set, 25-23.

After Briarwood lost its opening pool play match against Thompson, the Lions took their next three matches to advance to the knockout round. Briarwood defeated Seigal, 28-26 and 25-19, and then came back on Saturday to beat Baldwin County, 27-25 and 25-12.

While the Lions dropped their opening set against Guntersville, 27-25 in extra points, they rallied to win the second set, 25-20, and the third and final set, 15-11, to finish off a 3-1 record in pool play.

Briarwood faced Orange Beach in its opening game of the knockout round, and the Lions won the match behind a solid 25-19 first set win and great resolve in the second set to win 26-24 in extra points. The Lions would also exit the tournament in the quarterfinals with a straight-set loss to Montgomery Academy.

The host Spain Park Jags recovered well from an opening match loss to Huntsville with three straight wins in pool play. Spain Park beat Northridge in the first set, 25-20, and the Jags bounced back from a close 25-23 loss in the second set to win the third set, 15-9, to take the match.

Spain Park also beat St. Paul’s in three sets, as a 27-25 extra points loss in the opening frame turned into back-to-back wins to close out the match, 25-17 in the second set and 15-12 in the third set. From there, the Jags closed out pool play with a dominant win over White Plains, 25-4 and 25-17.

The Jags exited in the opening round of knockouts, but not without a fight against Spanish Fort. Spain Park took a close first set, 25-22, and after losing the second set 25-16, the Jags battled until the end against the Toros in the third set. While Spanish Fort won the final set, 15-13, Spain Park held its own in the knockouts and picked up three wins during the weekend.

Chelsea split its pool play games and reached the knockout stage with a 2-2 record. The Hornets started the tournament with a win against Ramsay, 25-15 and 25-23, but they fell to eventual semifinalists Bayside, 25-20 and 25-23, in a tight match and also lost to Buckhorn, 25-18 and 25-23.

The Hornets bounced back with a strong win over John Carroll to end the pool play round, as Chelsea won both sets 25-14, to secure its seed in the Silver Bracket.

In the knockout round, Chelsea battled with Sparkman, and after a dominant 25-12 first set win for the Hornets, Sparkman responded with a 25-17 win in the second set. The third set came down to the final points, but Sparkman took the set in extra points, 16-14, to end Chelsea’s run.

While the varsity Hornets exited early in the Silver Bracket, the JV team won the Silver Bracket to take the championship.

Indian Springs also won a match in pool play ahead of its start in the Silver Bracket. Indian Springs beat Faith Christian, 25-18 and 25-19, before it lost to St. Paul’s in the opening knockout round.