By Rubin E. Grant
Hoover finished third in the North Super Regional volleyball tournament last weekend in Huntsville, but that was just fine with Bucs coach Chris Camper.
Camper would have loved to see his team win the regional championship, but by finishing third, the Bucs ended up with a more favorable drawing for this week’s AHSAA Elite Eight state tournament at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
The Bucs don’t have to worry about McGill-Toolen Catholic or Mountain Brook until the championship game, if they advance. McGill-Toolen and Mountain Brook have combined to win the past four Class 7A state championships.
“I’m happy with the way we played in the regional,” Camper said. “We went up there and won two out of three games. But it’s nice being on the other side of the bracket from McGill-Toolen and Mountain Brook.”
The Bucs lost to McGill in the 2017 state tournament quarterfinal. The Dirty Dozen went on to capture the 7A title. Mountain Brook won the previous three 7A titles, in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Hoover (38-10) played Auburn (33-13) in the Class 7A quarterfinals Wednesday, with the winner taking on either 2017 runner-up Bob Jones (35-10) or Baker (22-13) in the semifinals later that day. The final was scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Thursday.
Mountain Brook Readies for McGill-Toolen
Mountain Brook (45-10) played Enterprise (40-7) Wednesday in its quarterfinal matchup. McGill-Toolen (45-5) took on Huntsville (26-22). If Mountain Brook and McGill-Toolen advanced, they will meet in the semifinals.
“In order to win this, it will come down to beating McGill one way or the other, either in the semifinals or finals,” Mountain Brook coach Vickie Nichols said. “If we play them in the semifinals, we will play it as if it’s the championship.”
McGill-Toolen beat Mountain Brook in the 2017 semifinals en route to the title.
A few weeks ago, Mountain Brook snapped McGill-Toolen’s winning streak against in-state competition at 35 in a row with a hard-fought 30-28, 25-23 win in the finals of the Margaret Blalock Invitational tournament at Homewood.
“Our girls know they can beat McGill, but we’re going to take it one match at a time,” Nichols said.
The Spartans, featuring juniors Grace Carr, Ann Vandevelde and Ellie Dayhuff, reached the regional final last weekend after sweeping both Thompson and Huntsville. In the final, Mountain Brook lost to Bob Jones 3-1 (15-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-18).
“That was actually the fourth time we had played Bob Jones and we had beaten them the first three times,” Nichols said. “We didn’t play particularly well, but it gives us a few things to work on, like playing together and playing for each other.”
Hoover beat Spain Park 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 25-13) in its first-round regional game, lost to Bob Jones 3-1 (20-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-23) in the semifinals before bouncing back to beat Huntsville 3-0 (25-14, 26-24, 26-24) in the consolation match.
“I think we played well,” Camper said. “Bob Jones was a buzzsaw and got hot, but we didn’t execute our game plan. I felt the girls rebounded well against Huntsville, showing some resiliency.”
Amiyah King led the Bucs with 135 assists, 24 digs, eight blocks, three aces and five kills in the regional. Rya McKinnon recorded 60 kills, 23 digs, seven blocks and three aces. Mackenzie Martin led the defense with 60 digs.
Camper likes the Bucs’ chances in the state tournament.
“We’re so big and have so much height and power, but we have to execute at a high level,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball, pass better and get the ball to our big hitters.”