By Tim Gayle
Montgomery Academy hasn’t lost but two regular-season matches all year – to 7A Thompson and 7A Spain Park – so it was no surprise when the defending 3A state champions rolled through their area tournament with ease, defeating Southside in the semifinals, then cruising past Prattville Christian (25-9, 25-15 and 25-17) at Joe Mooty Court on Monday afternoon.
“Montgomery Academy is definitely one of the best teams in the state in any classification,” PCA coach Kaylon Cantrell said. “Playing against them, that’s probably some of the toughest competition we’re going to see so I think it definitely prepares us (for the regional). We see big hits, big blocks, everything, so I think it definitely gets us ready for what we’ve got coming.”
Both teams advanced to the South Super Regional on Thursday at the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl. Montgomery Academy (39-6) will face Straughn in the opening round at 12:45 p.m. The winner will face the Hale County-Flomaton winner later that afternoon at 5 p.m. The winner of that match will earn a berth in the state tournament.
Prattville Christian (28-16) will face Opp in the opening round at 12:45 p.m. The winner will face the T.R. Miller-Greene County winner later that evening at 6:30. The winner of that match will earn a berth in the state tournament as well.
For Montgomery Academy, all six losses this season have been at the hands of programs in higher classifications, so Eagles coach Julie Gordon said the biggest challenge is making sure her players are focused for every match. As for the opponent, it’s often a challenge trying to figure out how to stop the balanced, well oiled machine.
“We’ve got multiple hitters that can score points, kill the ball or strategically place a ball and when you’ve got seven or eight players who can do that, it’s hard to defend,” Gordon said.
For MA, Millie Stevenson earned tournament most valuable player honors with 27 assists and 10 digs. Mary Gray Turner had eight kills and five digs, Anaya Thomas had nine kills, Ann Cobern Chapman had eight kills and a pair of blocks, Brooke Horne had seven kills and a pair of blocks and Grace Jackson had 10 digs.
Prattville Christian advanced to the finals by beating Pike Road 25-14, 25-23 and 25-17.
“We came in knowing (Pike Road) was not going to be an easy game,” Cantrell said. “I thought we showed up and played really well. Our defense was pretty solid and we swung big in the front row.”
For the Panthers, Jamie Johnson had 20 assists, three aces and four digs, Sydney Jorgensen had 12 digs and four aces, Victoria Wheeler had 15 kills, a pair of aces and six blocks, Ella Jane Connell had three assists, Coco Thomas had three kills and two blocks, Emily Kamykowski had an assist and 15 digs, Julie Lawrence had three kills, 20 assists, three aces and eight digs, Hannah Jones had five kills and four blocks, Lennon McAnnally had 15 kills, a block and 14 digs and Jacey Haynes had four kills and a pair of blocks.
Joining Stevenson on the all-tournament team were teammates Mary Gray Turner and Grace Jackson, the Prattville Christian Academy duo of Julie Lawrence and Victoria Wheeler and Cate Lovrich of Pike Road.