The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 29, 2012

ABS back at state

By Jonathan Deal

ATHENS — At Athens Bible School, going to the state volleyball tournament may as well be penciled in on the schedule like any other game. ABS has been to the state volleyball tournament six out of the last seven years. After a rare miss in 2011, the Trojans will play in the Elite Eight once again Wednesday.

“We just had a young group last year,” head coach April Davis said. “Experience has helped us so much. We had great players last year, but we needed last year to rebuild and get some experience under our belt. They’ve just wanted it more this year. They know what the tradition for ABS volleyball is. They are ready to take over.”

Athens Bible has as much volleyball tradition as any other 1A team in the state under Davis’ tutelage. This will be the ninth team the ABS alum has led to the state tournament since 1998.

While going to the state tournament has become an ABS tradition under Davis, another tradition is missing from the team this season. For first time since 2004, Davis doesn’t have a family member playing for her.

But that doesn’t mean she is alone. One of her former players and niece, Abbie Melvin, joined as assistant coach before this season.

“She was ball girl, back in 1998,” said Davis. “She played for me four years. It’s great to have her coaching with me now. She has done a lot. She knows the game. The girls like her and really look up to her.”

Melvin is following the same path as her Aunt April. Davis was once a ball girl and later went on win a state championship at ABS in 1989.

“It’s been unusual not to have a family member on the court,” Davis said. “But it’s nice to have somebody back with me. Now, my little girl is our ball girl, so maybe she’ll be the next one.”

Melvin is eager to return to the state tournament where she was the MVP at state when Athens Bible finished runner-up to Spring Garden in 2007. The Trojans’ star player this time around is Samantha Cundiff. Cundiff recently broke a state record for consecutive serves in one game, a feat that surprised her coach, but for different reasons.

“That’s not the record I thought she would set,” Davis said. “She is a special player. Samantha is our quarterback out there. She’ll be in the books (at ABS) for assists and really high for career assists statewide before she’s done playing.”

Cundiff also grew up watching Athens Bible have success on the court. The humble sophomore has played volleyball since fifth grade and is excited about the possibility of adding to her school’s tradition.

“I’m really excited,” Cundiff said. “When I think about going to state, I really don’t picture us going. I always think about the older girls. So, it’s weird to think about us going.”

Athens Bible’s journey for its third state volleyball championship begins with a game against Sacred Heart at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Should ABS win, they could face an Addison team later that day that has won five out of the last nine state championships in 1A or 2A.