Arab is runner-up in North Super Regional

Arab’s volleyball players were disappointed but still very proud of their runner-up finish in Huntsville.

The Arab volleyball team faced little resistance in the early rounds of the 5A, North Super Regional at Von Braun Center last week.

But in the end, the Lady Knights had to settle for a runner-up finish in the north regional, good enough for a No. 2 seed in the state tournament this week at Birmingham’s Crossplex (see story above).

Playing on Tuesday and Wednesday, the No. 5-ranked Lady Knights defeated their first three opponents. On Tuesday morning, the beat Pleasant Grove 25-10, 25-6, 25-11 to advance to the quarterfinals that afternoon. With a state tournament berth on the line, Arab defeated Alexandria in straight sets also, 25-19, 25-21, 25-22.

That advanced the Lady Knights to the 5A regional semifinals the following day, and things finally got tougher. After waiting through a significant delay, Arab took quite a few punches from Lawrence County before finally subduing the Lady Red Devils in the pivotal second game, 29-27.

With wins in the first and last sets, Arab prevailed 25-20, 29-27, 25-16 to advance to the regional final to meet No. 1 Westminster Christian, but it wasn’t easy.

Trailing 3-8 in the second set, Arab coach Amy Hudson called a timeout. It got to 5-10 before a nice Knights run, with Sami Kate Hudson serving, made it 11-11.

Then, with the score 12-12, Anna McFerrin started serving and before she was finished, Arab led 17-12. The Red Devils tied it at 18-18 and the game rocked back and forth the rest of the way.

Arab was able to take a 24-22 lead, but the Red Devils stormed back and actually took 26-25 and 27-26 leads.

Then, with Sydney Ferguson serving, Arab won three straight to close out the match.

“We were down and not playing well in that second set,” Hudson said. “I told our setter (McFerrin) to go to the pins (outside) and she did and it worked out.

“I was really proud of those girls how they fought back.”

The just led to another fight, for the North Super Regional crown and one of two top seeds in the state tournament.

Westminster Christian won the first set 25-23, then Arab won the second set by the same score. And truth be known, both games were even closer than the final scores indicated as the teams were tied late in both.

Westminster Christian battled back to win the third set 25-18 and it appeared Arab was going to hold serve and win the fourth game to set up a winner-take-all fifth set.

The Lady Knights seemed in control while building a lead that reached 19-14 at one point. The Wildcats, seemingly answering every one of the Lady Knights would-be winners, finally tied the game at 21.

From there, both teams fought valiantly, with Arab taking its final lead at 24-23 before the Wildcats closed it out for a 26-24 win.

Arab had played and lost to Westminster Christian in a close, hard-fought match near the end of the season.

“This one was very much like the last time we played them,” Hudson said. “They’re absolutely very tough. They’re No. 1 in 5A for a reason.

“But we’ve showed twice we’re right there with them.”

The Lady Knights showed their coach a lot of character in the match.

“They’ve grown so much this season,” Hudson said. “They fought back several times, including in the set we won.

“I’m proud of where they are mentally. I wanted them to peak at the right time and we’re almost there.”

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