Spain Park wins 5-set thriller to earn spot at state tournament

Published 5:19 pm Thursday, October 26, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

HUNTSVILLE – One year after a five-set thriller ended with a loss to keep Spain Park from getting a shot at defending the Class 7A State Championship, the Jaguars were on the other end of a five-set battle.

Taking on James Clemens in the opening round of the Class 7A North Regional Tournament, Spain Park fought through a mentally tough match with the Jets, using the motivation of getting back to the state tournament as motivation.

After splitting the first four sets, it came down to the fifth set tiebreak and the Jags pulled out to a 6-1 lead that gave them enough cushion in a nerve-wracking situation.

James Clemens pulled back to within a point at 14-13, but Spain Park closed it out a point later to complete a 3-2 (25-22, 15-25, 25-13, 22-25, 15-13) victory inside Huntsville’s Von Braun Center on Thursday, Oct. 26.

It continued a special run that has seen Spain Park find its groove at the perfect time after taking down rival Oak Mountain in the area tournament championship game to earn a better seed at regionals.

The Jags took advantage of the momentum and carried it into the matchup with the Jets.

In the opening set, Spain Park trailed much of the set, but the Jaguars never fell behind by more than three points on two different occasions.

That eventually allowed them to draw back to a tie at 19-19 before quickly taking their first lead of the set at 20-19.

But it was a moment in a 20-20 tie that made the difference in the opening set. In the midst of a long rally between the two teams, Spain Park put together several exhausting saves in a row to keep the point alive, eventually winning 21-20.

That seemed to flip a switch late in the set. The Jets were able to regain a lead at 22-21, but Spain Park closed it out from there with four consecutive points to claim the 25-22 first-set win.

James Clemens, however, played much of the set as the better team and didn’t lose confidence.

The Jets came right back in the second set and didn’t allow the Jags to earn clean sets or looks, which prevented them from getting into a groove.

James Clemens capitalized and jumped out to a 10-5 lead as Spain Park never got closer than four the rest of the way with the Jets closing out a 25-15 effort in the second set.

The set switchover, however, favored the Jaguars who came out determined with a strong service game from Reagan Gilbert and the biggest kill of the game from Megan Ingersoll.

Spain Park jumped out to a 9-2 lead and never looked back en route to claiming the third set 25-13.

It looked as if the Jags were going to use that momentum, with James Clemens on the brink of elimination, to close out the match.

They jumped out to another strong lead of 11-6 in the fourth set and led 16-13 at one point, but the Jets didn’t go down without a fight.

They clawed back to take an 18-17 lead with a 5-1 run. After the two fought to a 21-21 tie, James Clemens finished the set on a 4-1 run to pick up a 25-22 victory and force the decisive fifth set.

The Jags, as they had done much of the match, responded.

In the biggest set of the year, they came out with a statement 6-1 start to grab all of the momentum. James Clemens tried to pull off the comeback, getting all the way back down to one point at 14-13, but the pressure became too much, as the Jags led the entire final set and picked up the 15-13 victory.

Now, Spain Park will head back to the Class 7A State Tournament where they’ll be for the first time since claiming the 2021 state championship.