GADSDEN – Wallace State volleyball coach Randy Daniel dubbed his sophomores the “Faithful Five” at the outset of the season.
They’re now the latest class to collect a pair of championship rings after propelling Wallace State to its fourth consecutive Alabama Community College Conference/Region 22 tournament title, winning all three of its matches at Gadsden State’s Beck Field House over the weekend.
Top-seeded Wallace State (33-6) defeated Snead State and Faulkner State in its opening matches Saturday and Faulkner State again in Sunday’s championship round, finishing off the Sun Chiefs in a four-set victory.
“You have to give credit again to my five sophomores. They led us, kept us focused and had our mentality where it needed to be. We got better and better as the season progressed,” said Wallace State coach Randy Daniel. “In close games you’ve got to rely on your experience and they all made key plays in tight situations. I’m extremely happy for them.”
Wallace State’s sophomores are Jessica Coombs, EA Shaver, Erica Baker, Bekah Myers and Maegan Belcher.
As ACCC/Region 22 champs, Wallace State advances to the NJCAA Division I national tournament, set for Nov. 15-17 at West Plains, Mo. It will be the college’s fourth appearance in a row and 13th overall.
Coombs, the team’s libero, was named tournament MVP after amassing 80 digs among the three matches. The Indiana native felt it was fitting the Lions beat Faulkner State in the title match, considering the Sun Chiefs handed Wallace State a rare conference loss in early September.
“We aren’t used to losing. We battled back from the Faulkner loss and a couple of non-conference losses and did what we had to in order to get back on track and become a team again,” Coombs said. “It’s an amazing feeling to win the fourth championship in a row for the school. It’s not an easy feat, and it’s sweeter than last year because of the challenges we overcame from earlier in the season.”
Daniel has collected more than 200 victories in five plus years with the Lions and has seen each sophomore class write its own unique chapter during the championship run.
“There’s a lot of unwarranted pressure. Teams come in and don’t want to be the one who didn’t win a championship. It’s something they want to uphold and continue in the future. It gets harder and harder every year,” Daniel said. “This team is different in its regards to getting better and better each week. We had one of our best practices of the year last week, and it’s usually very hard to get much out of practice during this time of the year. The loss at Faulkner State turned the tables for us. We’ve inched forward ever since then.”
Based on regular-season efforts, Baker was named the ACCC/Region 22 Player of the Year, earning the accolade for the second straight season. The 6-foot-1 middle hitter from Hazel Green, an NJCAA honorable mention All-American, led the conference in kills and hitting percentage and was fourth in blocks.
Myers, Coombs and Kendra Jackson were ACCC/Region 22 first-team selections for their regular-season work, while Kianna Delaney and Nicole Penny were named to the second team.
Joining Coombs on the All-Tournament team were Baker, Myers and Penny.
Baker had 42 kills and four blocks in the tournament, Myers finished with 29 kills and eight blocks and Penny accumulated 124 assists.
“It’s a great honor and I’m appreciative, but the MVP is for the entire team. Volleyball is a team sport, and we all fought hard to accomplish this championship,” Coombs said.
In the championship match, which Wallace State won 18-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-23, Jackson added 13 kills, Shaver had seven and Delaney finished with nine kills and eight digs.
Freshmen Lauren Butler, Victoria Smith and Erin Frazier, each whom made solid contributions this season, round out the Wallace State roster.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit www.wallacestate.edu
Wallace State Community College
P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077
1-866-350-9722 Direct line: 256-352-8443
Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu