Photo: Glencoe High’s Lauren Cole, Aubrey Gray and Hannah Baker (pictured, from left) eye the ball during the Lady Yellow Jackets’ quarterfinal match against Montgomery Academy in the AHSAAS Elite Eight state volleyball tournament on Wednesday (Oct. 31) in Birmingham. (Mike Goodson/Messenger)
By Mike Goodson, Sports Correspondent; Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Glencoe High head volleyball coach Jamie Barkley believes her Lady Yellow Jackets proved that they belong in the Elite Eight Class 3A State Tournament at the Birmingham CrossPlex this week.
“We’ve been talking about earning the right to be there, and I think our girls have done that,” she said.
Indeed, they have. Glencoe went 2-2 at the North Super Regional Tournament last week at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville to finish fourth and qualify for a trip to the Magic City.
The Lady Yellow Jackets (34-25) fell to top-ranked Montgomery Academy Eagles on Wednesday, Oct. 31, in the state quarterfinal found, but Barkley found many bright spots in her team’s performance. Glencoe has five seniors but only two were starters.
“We had the 25th of June circled on the calendar. That was when we had our first parent meeting and then the hard work began. Defense got us here, and defense wins championships. These girls all bought into this philosophy. Next year, we’ll focus on where to hit the ball.
“We’ve been talking about walking worthy in the task that you’ve been given and for us, that means playing hard and doing the little things right. You can only control what’s happening on your side of the net and your square footage to defend. That’s been our mindset for the past month.”
The Lady Eagles (36-9) took the match by a score of 25-10, 25-14, 25-9. Lauren Cole led the Yellow Jackets with nine kills, six assists and six blocks.
Glencoe finished second to Pleasant Valley in the Area 11 Tournament on Oct. 22 to qualify for the super regionals.
“We know that Pleasant Valley is a good volleyball team, and for the first time, we took sets from them this year, which was an accomplishment against a very competitive volleyball team,” said Barkley.
The Lady Yellow Jackets opened the super regionals on Oct. 25 with a 25-7, 25-8, 25-4 win over Fultondale.
“We knew that Fultondale had not played many games and did not have the strong hitters and blockers that we had,” said Barkley. “There were many times this season that Kaylee Knight and Lexi Gray blocked our way into winning a match, and that’s exactly what happened. So, we took that mentality and excitement through the rest of the tournament.”
Barkley noted that the early 8 a.m. start to the match played in her team’s favor.
“That’s why we played all those Saturday tournaments this year; you have to get up early and be in the right mindset. Against Fultondale, our girls played one of the best games I’ve seen them play. Sometimes when you play a team like that, you get down, and we talked about not playing down to their level of competition but playing on our side of the net.”
Glencoe then defeated Holly Pond, 20-25, 25-18, 25-10, 25-17, in the quarterfinals to clinch a berth in the Elite Eight. Barkley pointed out that a near two-hour delay to the start of the match, combined with no warm-up session, left the Lady Yellow Jackets “discombobulated” at the beginning of the match.
“We walked onto the floor and [the officials] blew the whistle and said, ‘Let’s go,’” said Barkley. “We didn’t even have about 30 seconds to get our nerves under control, and we played rushed and nervous for the first few points of that first game. But we settled down and eventually got into a rhythm and took control of the match.
“We’ve been in tournaments almost every weekend this season to try to get our mindset right to win matches like these, so we knew that we had put the work in.”
In the semifinal round on Oct. 26, the Lady Yellow Jackets fell to Lexington, 25-14, 25-10, 25-12. Later that day, Glencoe lost to Geraldine, 25-16, 25-15, 25-9, in the consolation match.
“We just didn’t pass as well on Friday, and it got into our minds and we got down,” said Barkley. “So this week we’ve been talking about controlling what we can control and working through mistakes and moving on.”
Barkley pointed to the leadership of her two captains, Evan Burns and Lauren Cole, as crucial to the team’s success.
“Those two girls will find a way to change the momentum of a game and put it in our favor. You need players like that in volleyball who are hungry and willing to make a difference in the moment to swing a game your way.”