HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State volleyball sophomore Savanna Tidwell felt a pop in her left knee during the first play of the Lions’ annual Orange and Navy scrimmage match in mid-August.

Tidwell immediately feared her final season at Wallace State was in jeopardy before it had even started. Tidwell’s concerns were confirmed a week later. She had torn her ACL.

“I found out the day we were leaving for the two-week trip to open the season (in Wisconsin). Once I knew, I started squalling. I was so upset,” said Tidwell, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter from Winston County High.

Since Tidwell had already decided to stick around Wallace State next fall to potentially pursue a dental hygiene degree, she knew this season was her last as a collegiate student-athlete. After a couple of consultations, Tidwell’s doctor assured her it was fine to play through the tear if she wasn’t too concerned about being prepared for next season.

Tidwell, who tore the ACL in her right leg in high school, chose to delay surgery and has been an asset to 17th-ranked Wallace State (36-6) since returning to the court in a home match vs. Jeff Davis on Sept. 18.

“I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines my last season. Once the doctor said I could play, I talked with my family and with coach (Randy) Daniel and decided to play through the pain. I knew my dad was going to say to play through the pain,” Tidwell said. “Even though it hurts, I’m so glad I have played. I can’t play front row at all or jump. I’ve just focused on playing well on the back row and defense. The hardest thing has been not playing as fast as I want to. I just have to careful.”

Tidwell was one of Wallace State’s top freshmen last season, finishing with 293 digs and 253 kills. She was selected to the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) All-Tournament team as the Lions won their sixth consecutive conference tournament crown.

Despite being relegated to the back row this season, Tidwell has played in 23 matches, collecting 66 digs. She’s also third on the team with 27 service aces. She compiled a season-high 13 digs in an Oct. 17 victory over Martin Methodist’s JV.

Wallace State coach Randy Daniel wishes all players had the same attitude and determination that Tidwell has exhibited this season.

“Savanna has the dedication to this sport that every coach asks for, but doesn’t always get. Savanna is here with a torn ACL and can barely walk at times, but all she cares about is playing. She’s gotten better and better this season adjusting to a new role,” Daniel said. “Savanna does everything on and off the court you ask for. She’s been so dedicated to this program for more than two years. She does a great job in the classroom, tries hard every day at practice and never misses a practice. She’s an inspiration and a great example to all of us.”

Tidwell, Daniel and the Lions are three wins away from claiming the program’s seventh consecutive ACCC tournament championship and making their seventh straight NJCAA national tournament appearance.

The three-day ACCC/District O &P tournament begins Friday at Gadsden State.

As the top seed for yet another season, Wallace State has a first-round bye and plays the Southern Union-Snead State winner at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The championship match is set for Sunday at 2 p.m.

Wallace State was perfect within league play for the second straight season, pushing their ACCC winning streak to 28 matches.

“It gets harder and harder every year to sustain the success. I keep saying that, but I guess that’s a good thing. We have the talent and experience to win the tournament again,” said Daniel, who surpassed the 300-win plateau earlier this season. “Our six sophomores are really good and don’t want to be the group to end the streak. We know it’s not easy to win at Gadsden State. We’re ready to go play and try to win another one.”

Wallace State sophomores CeCe Hall and Kheala Roberts are among the top front-row players in the conference.

Hall, who has already committed to Alabama for next season, finished the regular season as the ACCC leader in kills (442), kills per set (3.84), hitting percentage (.637 percent), blocks (102) and blocks per set (1.63). Hall, a middle hitter from Dothan, was named the ACCC Player of the Week on three occasions this season.

Roberts, a Danville grad, finished third in the conference with 317 kills and second with a .477 hitting percentage. She’s also added 48 blocks.

Sophomore setter Alexandra Gamble finished the regular season with a league-best 1,018 assists.

Freshman Kelsea Bivins has been one of Wallace State’s most versatile players, compiling 383 kills, 225 digs and 55 kills.

August Newberry has 581 digs heading into the tournament, Cierra Davis has added 262 kills and 228 digs for the Lions and Sidney Cooper has 186 digs and 86 kills.

“We have a lot of talent on this team. We are bigger and taller on the front row than we were last year, and this team is closer than last year’s group,” said Tidwell, who plans to have surgery Dec. 17. “We are looking forward to the tournament. We know there will be a lot of people rooting and yelling against us, but we just have to stay focused and play our game.”

The tournament champion will advance to the NJCAA Division I volleyball national tournament to be held in Casper, Wyo., on Nov. 19-21.

For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit athletics.wallacestate.edu.

Savanna Tidwell

Savanna Tidwell

Savanna Tidwell sets up for a dig in a Wallace State victory against Wallace-Selma this season.

Savanna Tidwell sets up for a dig in a Wallace State victory against Wallace-Selma earlier this season.

Savanna Tidwell serves for Wallace State earlier this season. Tidwell, a Winston County High grad, and the Lions are seeking the program’s seventh straight ACCC tournament title this weekend

Savanna Tidwell serves for Wallace State earlier this season. Tidwell, a Winston County High grad, and the Lions are seeking the program’s seventh straight ACCC tournament title this weekend.

Savanna Tidwell serves for Wallace State earlier this season. Tidwell, a Winston County High grad, and the Lions are seeking the program’s seventh straight ACCC tournament title this weekend

Savanna Tidwell serves for Wallace State earlier this season. Tidwell, a Winston County High grad, and the Lions are seeking the program’s seventh straight ACCC tournament title this weekend.

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Russell Moore

Staff Writer

Wallace State Community College

P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077

1-866-350-9722    256-352-8443 direct

Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu