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Albany volleyball outlasts Miles in five sets to advance to region quarterfinals

Stephen Garcia
Abilene Reporter-News

TUSCOLA — For four sets Monday, it seemed like neither Albany nor Miles could maintain control.

Then the Lady Lions found a rhythm.

After trading sets, Albany ran away in the decisive game to take down Miles 25-10, 10-25, 25-10, 17-25, 15-3 in an area playoff at Jim Ned's Bill Thornton Arena. The Lady Lions will face Coleman in the Region I-2A quarterfinals later this week.

Albany volleyball coach M.J. Reneau lifts a trophy in front of her team after the Lady Lions beat Miles in an area playoff on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, at Jim Ned's Bill Thornton Arena in Tuscola.

Albany's win Monday avenged a postseason loss to Miles in the same round last season.

"We had a practice game last week (against Tolar) that went into the fifth set, and I think that prepared us so well for this game," second-year Lady Lions coach M.J. Reneau said. "We knew that we had to just start over. We had to forget about the first four sets and we just had to play volleyball for the last 15 points."

A kill by Jessica Hinds brought Miles within 4-3 in the fifth set before Albany scored the final 11 points. Sarah Beth Cotter's kill made it 5-3, and then the junior took over at the service line.

Cotter had two of her team-high six aces during the closing run. Alli Hill, who led Albany with 17 kills, had four in the decisive set. Cotter followed with 15. The Lady Lions totaled 12 aces on the night.

"Serving was so important in this game, and so was limiting our errors," Reneau said. "I feel like that's what lost us that second set. We had too many hitting errors, and our serve-receive wasn't as good as it normally is. But we pulled it together and got that third set, and that momentum just carried over and helped us for the win."

Four players had four kills apiece for Miles, which was plagued by errors early.

Miles' Whitney Halfmann goes for a bump against Albany in an area playoff on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, at Jim Ned's Bill Thornton Arena in Tuscola.

"In my opinion, this year we just needed more games to work on some of the little things that we needed," Lady Bulldogs coach Courtney Lange said. "Just some little things (like) communication and just remembering to keep our feet going."

Katelynn Graves, Grace Schwertner, Kinsley Riddle and Regan Smithwick each had four kills for Miles. Allie Kalina led the Lady Bulldogs with 16 assists, and Jessica Hinds had a team-high five digs.

Miles had two seniors on an underclassman-heavy roster. Lange said her team improved throughout the season and credited Albany's experience.

"We're growing together as a team," Lange said. "...I hate when we have to sit there and end a set at 15...because it just seems like it takes us a little bit. But I'm super proud of these girls and what all they've done. They have accomplished so much this year. We're going to miss our two seniors, but we're coming back strong next year."

Clara Holson led Albany with 29 assists and added eight kills. Blanton Belcher had a team-high 17 digs, and Torie Fuentes followed with 15.

Members of the Albany volleyball team celebrate following a win over Miles in an area playoff on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, at Jim Ned's Bill Thornton Arena in Tuscola.

"I felt like every single player on the team contributed to this win," Reneau said. "I thought Clara did a great job of drawing the defense in with her dumps and then pushing it out to our hitters to back them up."

The Lady Lions' next hurdle will be Coleman, which won its first playoff game in the program's short history on Monday.

"I have eight seniors, and they're great leaders," Reneau said. "They're wanting to make a good playoff run, so we just have to stay focused and keep working."