HANCEVILLE, ALA. – No conference opponent was able to beat Wallace State's volleyball team in a single game this season, let alone a match. Nothing changed in the Alabama Community College Conference/District 0 & P tournament.
Top-seeded Wallace State cruised to three convincing victories and earned its sixth consecutive ACCC tournament championship on Sunday, capping off another title with a 25-14, 25-13, 25-15 win over rival Gadsden State in the finals at Tom Drake Coliseum. Tournament MVP BreAnna Thompson finished with 44 kills overall as the Lions (35-8) continued the volleyball dynasty it has established under coach Randy Daniel.
"It's been a special year. I knew early on we had a chance to be really good and do something special. All year we've had good depth and been able to put players at different positions. We've had great seasons from a lot of different players," said Daniel, who was named the 2014 ACCC Coach of the Year. "We played an aggressive non-conference schedule and that really makes you better when you are playing conference games. Overall, we have been very consistent. We kind of hit our stride midseason. We found our rhythm, our key players and started settling down with our rotations. Since that point, I've felt like we've got better, better and better."
All six championship teams have created their own identities. This year's sophomore class sticks out to Daniel as one of the things he'll remember the most. Along with Thompson, the sophomores are Syretha Pride, Montana Clark, Bethany Johnson, Kaci Kirk and Olivia Walker. They all earned their second state ring on Sunday.
"This group of sophomores has been very dedicated and very loyal to the program. I'm going to miss them. I'm going to remember their effort and positive attitude the most. They knew what we wanted to accomplish. They were all key players for us last year and they are again this year," Daniel said. "All six of the sophomores wanted to keep the streak going. They talked about that, and when I recruit I ask if players are willing to put forth the effort that's going to keep the streak going."
The streak doesn't appear to be fading anytime soon, and the sophomores aren't done yet with their Wallace State careers. With another conference title under their belt, the Lions advance to the NJCAA Division I national tournament in Casper, Wyo., on Nov. 20-22. It will mark Wallace State's sixth national tournament appearance in a row and a state-best 15th overall appearance.
Wallace State cruised to a seventh straight regular season championship to earn the tournament's top seed, and the Lions didn't let up any once the postseason started.
Wallace State, which received a first-round bye, opened the two-day event with a 25-14, 25-15, 25-14 triumph over Snead State. The Lions added a 25-9, 25-14, 25-14 win over second-seeded Faulkner State on Saturday afternoon to earn a berth into the championship match.
It was nothing new for Wallace State to square off against Gadsden State for the championship considering the rivals have met in the title match five of the last six seasons.
Wallace State never allowed Gadsden State to muster much of a threat all match. The Cardinals held brief 6-4 and 7-6 leads in the third game, and after a 7-7 tie, Wallace State yielded only eight points the rest of the way.
"We played in this tournament like we did the entire regular season. We didn't feel any pressure. We just went out there and played our game," said Thompson, who was named to the all-tournament team for the second straight year.
Thompson's 15 kills paced the way for the Lions in the finale. Pride added 11 kills and four digs for Wallace State, Savanna Tidwell had 13 digs and seven kills, Alexandra Gamble had 23 assists, Kirk had 10 assists, Clark and Sarah Ellen Battles each finished with seven digs, Bethany Johnson had seven kills while Sidney Cooper added six.
Joining Thompson from Wallace State on the all-tournament team were Pride, Gamble and Tidwell. Pride collected 38 kills, 11 blocks and eight digs during the tournament, Gamble had 70 assists and Tidwell finished with 33 digs and 24 kills.
On the eve of the tournament, Wallace State's Pride was named the 2014 ACCC Player of the Year for her regular season accomplishments. Pride entered the tournament leading the conference in kills, hitting percentage and blocks.
Thompson and Clark were also first-team All-Region selections for Wallace State, while Johnson was named to the second team.
Other members of Wallace State's 2014 not previously mentioned are Melissa-Paul Hill, Katelyn Bishop, Teryn Simmons, Kheala Roberts, CeCe Hall and Stephanie Eckerd. Every player on Wallace State's roster received minutes during the tournament.
As state runner-up, Gadsden State advances to the NJCAA District P playoff to be held Nov. 9 at Florida State College at Jacksonville at 12 pm EST. The winner of the playoff also advances to the national tournament.
ACCC Champion Wallace State-Hanceville
ACCC Runner-up Gadsden State