Tough endingPublished 6:43pm Wednesday, October 30, 2013
The Benjamin Russell Wildcats came into this season determined to erase bitter memories of last season’s heartbreaking end during the Super Regionals.
That season, the Wildcats were one point away from advancing to the state tournament.
This season, things looked like they would be different, as Benjamin Russell ran through Gulf Shores (Mobile) High School 3-0 (25-13, 25-21, 25-16) in the opening round of play.
However, the Wildcats’ plans of advancing were denied in the second round by Class 5A, No. 1 St. Paul’s, who Benjamin Russell dropped a four-set match to 3-1 (34-32, 20-25, 16-25, 14-25).
“I was very pleased with how the team played and how they have played this season,” said BRHS volleyball coach Pam Robinson. “They believed they could win, and they played like it. We were just as concerned with St. Paul’s as they were with us.”
For the match, Jernika Russell led the team with 16 kills, 18 digs and four blocks.
Alexis Flowers tied Russell for the team lead in digs.
Chloe Owens had 11 kills, 17 digs and one block. Jada Carr had 10 kills, 12 digs and a block.
Aaliyah Lawson had two kills, two blocks and seven digs.
Cookie Kelly had two kills.
Robinson said the team’s valiant effort caught the eye of the opposition.
“After the match, St. Paul’s coach came over and told us that she felt this was a championship match that came too early,” Robinson said. “She said we played crazy defense, and you could see by the amount of digs we had that we were flying around and getting after it.”
With the loss, Benjamin Russell’s season ends at 41-9, and a final regular-season AL.com volleyball ranking of No. 5 in Class 5A.
“Very few teams end a season with single-digit losses,” Robinson said. “So I think it means we had a great season overall.”
Looking ahead to next season, the Wildcats will be without Russell, Lawson and Kelley due to graduation.
There is also a chance that the team could lose Flowers, a junior, to early graduation.
However, Robinson said the team has taken after this year’s senior class, adding that the BRHS senior volleyball players imparted “the right attitude” upon the team.
“It’s not just about the success we had,” Robinson said. “It’s about the attitude we had, the way we carried ourselve. We respected every team we played, but we were not scared. Winning is a mental thing, and if you think you can, you can. Every game we went into, we thought we could win.”
Next season, Robinson said she expects Carr and Owens to step into the leadership roles vacated by the seniors.
“They’ve played off and on with the team since their freshman years,” Robinson said. “Nikita Adamson is a defensive specialist for us. Danasha Wyckoff has filled a lot of spots for us, and we also have Aaliyah Goggans and Savannah Pearson returning.”