By Rubin E. Grant
Usually, transferring from one high school to another in a different state before your senior year could entail a considerable adjustment.
But not for Savannah Gibbs. She felt at home right away after she transferred from Panama City, Florida, to Hoover High School this summer. Her teammates on the Hoover Bucs’ volleyball team made the transition smooth for her.
“The girls were so sweet and so welcoming,” Gibbs said. “I couldn’t have had a better team to be on for my senior year.”
Besides, Gibbs already was familiar with the area.
“I was born in Pell City,” she said. “When my dad got a job promotion at UPS, we moved to Panama City. And when he got another promotion, we moved to Hoover.”
Gibbs has been a major contributor as a libero for Hoover, helping the Bucs return to the AHSAA Elite Eight state tournament at the Birmingham CrossPlex. The Bucs, runners-up in the tournament in 2016, were scheduled to play McGill-Toolen Catholic in the Class 7A quarterfinals Wednesday. The Bucs entered that game with a 31-9 record for the year against McGill-Toolen’s 43-8.
Gibbs recorded 30 digs as Hoover secured its berth in the state tournament Friday with a 3-1 (25-18, 25-23, 19-25, 25-18) victory against James Clemens in the Class 7A North Super Regional in Huntsville.
But the Bucs fell to Mountain Brook 3-1 (25-27, 25-22, 25-20, 25-18) in the semifinals Saturday, then lost 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-19) to Oak Mountain in the consolation match.
The setbacks left Hoover with the No. 4 seed and its tough quarterfinal match-up with perennial powerhouse McGill-Toolen, the No. 1 seed from the South Regional.
Gibbs described the Bucs’ performance Saturday as disappointing.
“We would have rather gotten out with a better draw, but we’ll play our hardest no matter what,” she said.
Hoover coach Chris Camper would expect nothing else from Gibbs, who will play volleyball at Jacksonville State.
“She’s been a consistent source of energy for our team and her playing style is contagious,” Camper said. “She gets after every ball. She’s been a key addition to our team.”
Camper hopes Gibbs and her teammates will put their disappointing finish at the regional behind them.
“We just struggled from the start,” he said. “We had a lot of unforced errors. We were out of rhythm most of the day. We’ve got to get that back.”
Hoover has played McGill-Toolen twice this season, both times in the Margaret Blaylock Tournament Oct. 13-14 at Homewood. The Bucs beat the Dirty Dozen in pool play but lost 2-1 in the finals.
“McGill is the best team in Alabama,” Camper said. “But the biggest thing is we’ve got to find ourselves. We can’t worry about who we’re playing. We’ve got to get ourselves back in rhythm.
“Our girls will play hard, but it comes down to execution. They played hard in the regional, but we didn’t execute to the level we have been for the last few weeks. Our passes were off, our sets were off and we didn’t hit the way we had been.”
Camper believes the Bucs will give McGill a competitive match.
“It’s a cliché, but everybody who gets to the Elite Eight will have a shot, no matter if you come out as a two seed, three seed or four seed,” he said. “McGill has great team. They’ve got two or three great hitters, they’re very balanced and they’re well coached.
“I think it will be a battle. We’ve got to execute at a high level.”