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File / The Outlook Benjamin Russell’s Brooklyn Edwards (6) hit the final kill against Opelika on Tuesday night. The win clinched the regular-season area title for the Wildcats.

After losing the opening set in a Class 6A Area 6 match against Opelika on Tuesday night, Benjamin Russell’s volleyball team came storming back. It won three sets in a row to take the victory and clinch the area regular-season title.

“Opelika jumped out to a 10-0 lead that first set and I called timeout,” Wildcat coach Magan Ford said. “I said, ‘Look girls, treat this like regionals because regionals is going to be this loud. Just slowly one point at a time chip away it and you have to let this be the worst you play all day.’”

Benjamin Russell was battling a tough environment as the Bulldogs had a large student section cheering them on, and although they couldn’t overcome that big of a deficit in the first set, they shook it off by winning the next three. The Wildcat dropped the opening set, 25-17, before winning, 25-22, 25-19, 25-23. Brooklyn Edwards, who finished with four kills, had probably the biggest of the night when she hit the final nail in Opelika’s coffin on match point in the fourth set.

Edwards wasn’t the only Wildcat to contribute to a well-rounded offense. Bre Smith led the way with 12 kills and four blocks and Sarah Rogers also had 10 kills to go along with nine digs. Timira Lawson smacked six kills.

But it was the serving that really made the difference, according to Ford.

“In the Elmore County tournament, it felt like we had more missed serves than we had all year, so we really focused when getting ready for this game on being able to keep the serve,” Ford said. “We knew it was going to be a big crowd and that was our plan was to keep fighting for the serve.”

Rogers put down four aces and Cheaney Keel added two.

In addition to their strong serving, the Wildcats were also extremely feisty in Tuesday’s match against Opelika. Although BRHS struggled with its passing, it overcame that with its scrappiness.

“We just did whatever it took to keep the ball up,” Ford said. “It was probably one of our worst passing games but they were also getting to balls that may have dropped early in the season. It looked like a bad pass, but they were going across the court to get it. The team effort overall was one of the strongest games I’ve seen all year.”

Opelika had won back-to-back area regular-season titles but the victory ensured an undefeated area slate for the Wildcats and gave them the right to host the area tournament Oct. 22.

“Any time we can play at our court — because we have a pretty good fan base too — it pumps the girls up,” Ford said. “To come into a situation like that and leave clinching the area, that’s a morale booster for the area tournament.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.