For a team that won the Marshall County Tournament, its regular season area title then its area tournament championship, losing in the second round of the 6A North Super Regional last Wednesday couldn’t help but be a disappointment.
But first-year coach Amy Hudson wanted her Lady Knights to remember those earlier accomplishments after they were ousted from the playoffs by Hazel Green in a highly competitive match at the Von Braun Center, 22-25, 19-25, 23-25.
Earlier in the day, Arab defeated Mortimer Jordan 25-13, 25-10, 25-17 in the first round of the tournament. Hazel Green swept Woodlawn in its morning match.
“I could not be more proud of this team and what they accomplished this season,” Hudson said. “Sure, our season did not end the way we wanted it to. The girls were disappointed and, of course, I was, too.”
Hudson was disappointed more for her players than for herself. She saw first hand how hard they worked.
“This team set goals in the summer and worked so hard day in and day out to get there,” she said. “They were able to accomplish some of them.
“They were Marshall County champions, Class 6A Area 15 champions of both the regular season and the area tournament, and finished in the final Sweet 16.
“We fell one game short of our goal of making it to Birmingham and competing for a state title, but it was not without a great fight. They went down against Hazel Green giving it absolutely all they had.
“They were able to walk out of the VBC Wednesday night knowing they could hold their head high and be proud of who they are and who they represent.”
Who they represent is Arab, and thanks to football coach Lee Ozmint and others, that just means more the last three years. Hudson, for one, is buying in to that new reality at the school, and obviously, so are her players.
“They broke the huddle down for the last time with ‘Thank God I Play for Arab!’ and they truly mean it,” Hudson said. “What our school has going on right now is something that we should never take for granted.
“I am so happy that these seniors were able to experience what true unity can feel like. There was so much support felt this season from parents, students, coaches of other sports, fellow athletes and people from the community and we are truly grateful.
“They got to play in front of some great home crowds with a great student section backing them up. The production team put out some amazing hype videos. It means more to these girls than anyone will ever know.
Arab loses four seniors, who will be hard to replace: Ella Ingram (libero), Moree McDonald (outside hitter and defensive specialist), Tatum Monroe (defensive specialist) and Skylar Ledbetter (right side hitter).
“All had extremely significant roles and will be greatly missed,” Hudson said. “Ella and Moree were both six rotation players who rarely came out of the game. Skylar and Tatum were specialized players who played three rotations every game.
“So, to say we have some big shoes to fill is an understatement.”
There is, however, plenty of talent returning.
“The good news is that we have a great core coming back who I truly believe will lead the team to great things,” Hudson said.
Leading the team will be senior setter Anna McFerrin, senior middle hitter Karli Walker and senior defensive specialist Heather Skelton. Behind them will be returning juniors Laney Kelley (middle hitter), Sami Kate Hudson (outside hitter and defensive specialist) and Sydney Ferguson (right side hitter).
Other players expected to contribute and fill holes are juniors Marissa Pope (defensive specialist), Jacey Wood (defensive specialist), Camilla Jane Burke (middle hitter) and Brenley Hanners (right side hitter).
Sophomores include Lexi Mann (outside hitter), Bennett Elrod (hitter, setter, defensive specialist), Addison Harrell (defensive specialist), Karissa Elledge (hitter), Alyssa Toth (hitter), and Hannah Poston (defensive specialist).
That’s not to mention a great class of freshmen that will move up from the junior high.
“We have a lot of good players in our program that will make my job of finding who will be the best 10-12 players to fill those varsity jerseys a difficult one. What a great problem to have,” Hudson said.
“We are ready to go to work and get ready for next season.
“We will hit the weight room hard three days a week and bust it in the gym with skill work the other two days with the girls who do not play other sports.
“These girls understand that our success is determined by what we do as much in the off season as what we do during the season…and that starts Monday.”