Beckville Continues String of Perfection With Sweep of Cumby + Advances to Regional Tournament
LINDALE -- To describe the Beckville Ladycats' play during the second half of the season as dominant might be underselling it. And the string of perfection continued Tuesday night.
Second-ranked Beckville advanced to its fourth consecutive regional volleyball tournament with 25-18, 25-14, 25-14 sweep of Cumby, which was the Ladycats' 16th consecutive victory -- all via the sweep, a string of 48 straight winning sets.
Beckville (36-5) has not dropped a set since a five-game, non-district loss to New Diana on Sept. 8.
"We condition (during our athletic period) to be prepared just in case we have to go more than three," said Beckville coach Cherry Downs. "But we've done a good job of executing early, and being able to take control in three sets. In the games, we haven't had the opportunity to prepare for that, but physically the girls are in shape to do it if they need to. It's a good feat for them, they've played strong -- an awesome accomplishment for them."
The Ladycats, who were eliminated in the regional semifinals a season ago, will face Centerville at 2 p.m. Friday from Longview's Lobo Coliseum in the first of two Class 2A Region III semifinals.
No. 1 Iola, defending regional champs and 2014 state finalists, will play in the other regional semi against Avery at 4 p.m. Friday's two winners will face off at 2 p.m. Saturday with a berth at the UIL state volleyball tournament on the line.
"Our defense is going to have to be ready," Downs said. "The teams that we're going to see this weekend are going to have multiple hitters and a quick offense, and we're going to have to be prepared for that. We stress it and we practice it, and the girls are aware of that."
Cumby (25-15) hung with the heavily favored Ladycats early on, forcing a 7-7 tie before pulling to within 13-12 in Game 1. But Beckville was able to keep Cumby at arm's length for the remainder of the set, and ultimately never looked back.
"We were nervous," Downs said. "I have five seniors and one sophomore that start for me, and even though they've been there and they're experienced, they still do get nervous; something's on the line. And you could see that. We weren't playing confident."
Beckville's five-deep rotation of hitters was on full display with each of them registering at least four kills.
"If I've got one player that's off, I've got four more that we can go to," Downs said. "And I've got 15 people on the bench that are ready to come in at any moment. The girls that I have on the floor take care of business, and they work as a team."
Natalie Morris led the way Tuesday with 10 kills to go with nine digs and one of the team's 12 aces for the match. Carson Blair added seven kills, 13 digs, and three aces, Cassie Elizondo had seven kills, while Carley Lawhorn and Kinley Blair racked up four kills apiece.
"We run a 5-1, so I've got five hitters that can hit the ball and have almost (an equal number) of kills for the season," Downs said. "I've compared stats form this year to last year, and we have such a tough serving game -- way more aces on our stats this year than we had last year -- which has kind of lowered our kills a little bit. But at the same time, we're working on one area and not having to work as hard on the other."
Beckville may have a plethora of options at the net, but there's one player who rarely, if ever, leaves the floor: senior setter Kassidy Alexander, who finished the night with 30 assists to go with 15 digs and three aces.
"It would be a different game if we didn't have her," Downs said of Alexander. "We've got great hitters to go along with her assists, and they help her get those, but we couldn't play without her. She's definitely the center of our team, she's definitely our quarterback."
Jacey Weatherbee supplied most of the offense for Cumby with seven kills along with a pair of blocks. Lauren Hudson added four kills, while the duo of Sydney Spillers and Alysse Bullock combined for 11 assists.
"Playing a slower tempo, like the team we played tonight; they had one big hitter for them," Downs said. "And when she wasn't on the front row our girls would take the opportunity to slow down a little bit. I stressed in the timeouts that we had that we have to overcome that, no matter who we're playing, we have to play at the fastest tempo we're capable of, and the adjust to the game."