State Volleyball: Jasper routs St. James for first volleyball championship

By JOHNATHAN BENTLEY Eagle Sports Editor
Posted 11/2/18

BIRMINGHAM — Jasper has been making winning look easy this season.Why would the state championship match be any different?Jasper dominated St. James from start to finish at the Birmingham …

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State Volleyball: Jasper routs St. James for first volleyball championship

Posted

BIRMINGHAM — Jasper has been making winning look easy this season.

Why would the state championship match be any different?

Jasper dominated St. James from start to finish at the Birmingham CrossPlex’s Bill Smith Arena in the Class 5A state championship match on Thursday, winning the school’s first state volleyball title. With the win, the Vikings became the first state team to win 70 matches in a season since Madison County in 2012. Jasper (70-5) also closed the season without losing a set to a 5A school.

Thursday’s championship match was never in doubt with the Vikings claiming a 25-20, 25-16, 25-19 victory.

Jasper trailed just once in the first two sets — 1-0 in the second set. 

It was a vastly different scene from last year’s five-set marathon match against Pelham for the Class 6A championship. The Vikings dropped that match, losing 17-15 in the final set. 

“The girls have waited 365 days for another opportunity at a championship,” said Daniels, who won his first title after three runner-up finishes. “I felt good about it. I thought they would preserve no matter what happened to us. I thought we were going to come out on top today. They never skipped a beat. They were determined. I can’t be more proud than I am of these girls.”  

Against St. James, Jasper built early leads and controlled the tempo in the first two sets. In the decisive third set, the Eagles led Jasper at 11-10, but the Vikings reeled off five straight points to take the lead for good. Tournament MVP McKinley Ferguson and All-Tournament Team member Alex Oliver controlled the net down the stretch with sets from All-Tournament Team selection Molly Kate Atkins.

“When we lost last year, it made us as a whole team hungry for this state championship,” Ferguson said. 

Ferguson, who promised redemption after last year’s narrow loss, delivered on Thursday. The junior had 14 kills, 10 digs and two aces. 

Alex Oliver also had a bit of redemption as well.

“Last year on the last point, Alex hit the ball into the net. She’s had to live with that since last year. It has motivated her to make sure it didn’t happen again. That’s the first thing I said to her after the match was over. I said. ‘Alex, it went over the net today,’” an emotional Daniels said.  

Oliver was ready for another chance this season.

“On that last one, I was like, ‘I’m going for this kill. I’m not going to make a mistake,’” Oliver said. 

She finished with nine kills, 13 digs and four blocks, Morgan McClendon had five kills and three digs, Kelsey Shelton had five kills, two aces and two digs, Jordan Gilbert had three kills and four blocks, Atkins had 34 assists, seven digs and one ace, Abby Trotter had 13 digs and Temperance Chatman had seven digs. 

“I’m just happy to play with my girls and coach Daniels. We win state and he gets his first (title) with us, that’s awesome. He’s a great coach,” said Atkins, who transferred from Carbon Hill before the season started. 

“I told myself when I got into high school that I would win at least win one championship in my four years, and we did it,” Ferguson added.

“This is sweet — any time you can say you are a state champion. The girls know how hard I work and how much fun it is for me. I knew if I lived long enough I would see this day, and I’m glad it’s here,” Daniels said. “The girls at (previous coaching stops) Winston County, Curry and Arab that went along on this trip with me — I would like to give a shout out to them. They believed in me but we just never got it done. I came to Jasper because I believed we would win a state championship in volleyball. I told them when I came that this was my last stop. I was going to get it done here.”