By Rubin E. Grant
The Hoover Bucs will have to run a gauntlet if they are going to win their first state volleyball championship.
The Bucs (32-14) will face Enterprise (32-14) in the first round at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in the 2019 AHSAA Volleyball State Championships at the Birmingham Crossplex.
Should they advance, the Bucs likely would have to face Mountain Brook (56-7) in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Mountain Brook takes on Auburn at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in its first-round game.
If the Bucs reach the final, which be played at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Bill Harris Arena, they could face two-time defending champion McGill-Toolen. McGill (37-9) plays Thompson (32-16) in the first round at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
“We’ve got a tough run,” Hoover coach Chris Camper said. “We’re going to have to beat somebody (Enterprise) we haven’t seen and then possibly Mountain Brook to get to the final.”
Hoover lost to Bob Jones in semifinals in the 2018 state tournament. They fell to McGill in the first round in 2017 and lost to Mountain Brook in the 2016 final.
Although the task is daunting, junior setter Aly Durban believes the Bucs can rise to the occasion.
“I’m really excited and ready to compete at the state tournament,” Durban said. “We’ve got to work harder to get to our goal. We’ve got to play with more confidence.
“Confidence is something we’ve struggled with. When we hit a little slump, we tend to get down on ourselves. We’ve just got to flush it and get our rhythm back.”
The Bucs enter the state tournament as the No. 3 seed out of the North Super Regional. It’s familiar territory for Hoover.
“We’ve had the No. 3 seed four times in the last seven years,” Hoover coach Chris Camper said. “It’s not a bad seed. We’re on the other side of the bracket from McGill, but we’re in the same bracket with Mountain Brook.
“Mountain Brook is playing very well. We’ve played them five or six times and they’ve beaten us every time but one. We haven’t executed when we have played them.
“But we’re not overlooking Enterprise. We just hadn’t seen them.”
Enterprise is the No. 2 seed from the South Super Regional after losing to McGill 3-0 (25-19, 25-12, 25-19) in the regional final.
In the North Super Regional at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville last weekend, the Bucs beat Huntsville 3-1 in the first round (21-25, 25-17, 25-11, 25-13), lost to Mountain Brook 3-1 (25-18, 25-18, 24-26, 25-8) in the semifinals, then bounced back to beat Thompson 3-1 (25-17, 27-25, 18-25, 32-30) to earn the third seed.
“We had good balance at the regional,” Camper said. “Rya (McKinnon) played well, our defense was good until the end and Aly set well all weekend.
“We’ve got the talent to win the state, but every one of our girls will have to execute for us to take the next step and get where we want to be.”
Camper hopes his young team, which has only three seniors, doesn’t get overwhelmed about playing in the state tournament.
“All our girls are new and young and if we beat Enterprise we will have to beat a senior-laden Mountain Brook team that knows what the finals are all about,” Camper said. “We’re going to have to execute at a high level for us to win three matches.”