Clark and Monteith Goss have had a history of some great volleyball battles in the past. Their last one was in 2006, when Monteith Goss’s Saks Lady Wildcats defeated Clark’s Lady Golden Eagles for the Class 4A state championship in Pelham.
Prior to that meeting, Jacksonville had swept all five matches with Saks that season, but the Lady Wildcats got the Lady Golden Eagles when it counted most.
“It’s probably better memories for her the last time we played,” Clark joked. “She’s come back home and it’s good to see her back involved again. She’ll do a good job here.”
Since that championship loss to Jacksonville in 2006, Clark and the Lady Golden Eagles have gone on to win a pair of state championships (2007, 2008). They’re currently ranked No. 2 in the state volleyball poll and showed why Tuesday, coming away with a 25-15, 25-20, 26-24 victory.
Monteith Goss said the same traits she remembers Jacksonville (11-1) possessing then, it possesses now.
“They’re a very consistent, mentally-tough team,” she said. “They’re not going to make a lot of mistakes. They’re going to wear you down. They take the ball and pass well. They’re going to hit it and come at you with everything. They have a very good reputation, and there’s good reason for it.”
Monteith Goss said she’s been experimenting with a new rotation for the Lady Warriors (6-5) recently, and she’s encouraged by the results. The experiment served Cherokee County well at times.
“We’re trying to spread our offense around and get everybody more looks,” she said. “I feel like we did that tonight. I feel like we had a lot more people stepping up and making plays. We’ve got to have that if we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Jessen Burk and Kate Carter helped keep the Lady Warriors in the battle, posting 32 and 26 digs respectively. Kayle Moon came away with seven kills. Madison Millsaps added three kills and seven aces. Allison Horne and Magen Dupree both finished with four kills.
“Kate and Jessen have both stepped up defensively. They’re our two most consistent passers,” Monteith Goss said. “They really stepped up and did a great job. We got beat a few times, but I didn’t feel like that was what killed us.
“What’s killing us right now is ourselves. We’ve just got to do the little things to be successful. We’re competing for the first 15 points, but then we’re just letting the other team get a rally going. A lot of that’s maturity and being focused.”
As Monteith Goss said, the Lady Warriors battled Jacksonville closely at times, particularly in the third game. An ace by Millsaps tied game three at 19, forcing Clark to call timeout.
Both teams battled down the stretch run, with the score tied on three more occasions (the latest being at 24). However, Jacksonville was able to earn the game’s final two points and escape with the win.
“We make things really interesting sometimes,” said Clark, noting he’s replacing all his varsity starters except junior hitter Katie Neisler. “To Centre’s credit, we gave a lot and they took advantage of it in the last game and made it close. I could feel it coming. We didn’t play very well that last game, but some of that was due to Centre, some of that is lack of learning to finish. This group has got to learn to finish, but we’re always in a battle here. If you can get out of here with a win, that’s a good thing.”
Monteith Goss said she thought the Lady Warriors’ confidence would have soared if they had won the third game.
“That was tough,” she said. “I really wanted that for them. I felt like if we could have pulled off that third game, mentally that would push us over the edge and propel us further in our maturity. It would just prove to them that if we keep doing the simple things, we’ll put ourselves in a situation where we can win games.”
Neisler led the Lady Golden Eagles with 20 kills, 10 blocks and five digs. Halee Stallings added 10 kills and five blocks. Ariel Diaz posted 20 digs. Courtney Bowden finished with 22 assists.