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IHS brings extensive resume into tourney

When Jemison coach Leighsa Robinson walked into the high school office on Tuesday and took off the wall the plaque that goes to the winner of the annual Chilton County Volleyball Tournament, she held a visual reminder of the expectations for her program.

The winner of each tournament since its renewal in 2003 has its name inscribed on the plaque. Jemison owns five out of the seven spots, but rival Isabella this year is an overwhelming favorite to win its second tournament title in three years.

“It has nothing to do with end of the season implications, the playoffs, but it is all about county pride,” Isabella coach Glen Graham said about the tournament’s importance. “[The players] see each other at the trade school, they see each other different places—they all know each other, and, of course, you want to have bragging rights on your friends.”

This year’s tournament will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Thorsby.

Before the beginning of each season, Graham has his Mustangs make out a list of goals for the year. Winning the county tournament is always included.

Team goals are most important, but the number of Isabella players on pace to set individual records demonstrates the team’s ability.

Senior hitter Amber Wyatt last year set the Isabella record for career kills and kills in a season (471). She has 414 kills through 35 matches with four regular season matches remaining, plus the playoffs.

Also, Wyatt recorded nine blocks in a 3-1 win at Calera on Tuesday to give her 400 for her career, more than any other Mustang.

Senior defensive specialist Kaylynn Culp has recorded 106 aces this season and needs only 11 more to move into first-place on the all-time list, and senior setter Jessica Maciel needs 57 assists to become Isabella’s single-season leader in that category.

Still, Jemison (23-9) won’t give up the plaque without a fight. JHS were swept by Isabella on Sept. 9, were more competitive in a 3-1 loss to IHS on Sept. 21 and have won their only two matches since then, against Shelby County (2-1) and West Blocton (2-0).

“We had people out of position, but we pulled together and played as a team because we beat Shelby County, who is pretty good,” Robinson said.

Most importantly, the Panthers are healthier than they’ve been in several weeks.

Middle blocker Shelby Griffin, a sophomore, has missed games and senior setter Kasi Wells has been held out at times during matches—possible because sophomore Haley Smitherman and senior Emily Smithey are capable of playing multiple positions.

Both Griffin and Wells should be full speed on Saturday, not least because of three days of rest before Saturday.

Though Thorsby (10-18) will host the tournament, Chilton County might be the most likely candidate to end the Isabella-Jemison stranglehold on the tournament.

CCHS has won its last 10 matches, including defeating host Jemison twice on Sept. 18 to win its invitational tournament.

Isabella (No. 1 seed) and Thorsby (4) will play to begin the tournament. The winner of that match will face the winner of the Jemison (2)-Chilton County (3) match for in a championship match that is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

A consolation match between the losers of the first two matches will be played at noon.

The junior varsity county tournament will be played Thursday at Thorsby and will follow the same format as the varsity tournament.

Jemison (1) will play Thorsby (4) at 3 p.m., and Isabella (2) will play CCHS (3) in the other first-round match. The consolation match is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., and the championship round will be played at 6 p.m.