The Lindsay Lane Christian volleyball team ended last season on a sour note, losing a five-set thriller to cross-town rival Athens Bible in the quarterfinals of the North Regional Tournament.
The loss prevented the Lions from advancing to their second consecutive Class 1A State Tournament, and possibly going on to win their first ever state championship.
However, Lindsay Lane is back this year and ready to get back to Birmingham and claim the school's first ever blue map championship trophy.
“Last year, I think the team feels like they were hard done by, because we had two of our starters go down injured in the same set,” LLCA coach Alex Dizon said. “We easily won the fourth set and had two of our starters go down. But even with that, we still had match point, but weren't able to close it out.”
It was a bitter end to what was statistically LLCA's best season ever, but the returning players didn't let that get them down. They came back this year and have performed even better.
Lindsay Lane finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 1A and easily swept through the area tournament and sub-regional game against South Lamar.
The Lions (32-9) enter the North Regional Tournament on a 15-match winning streak, having won 37 out of their last 40 sets.
LLCA will begin play in the tournament with a 10 a.m. quarterfinal game against Belgreen. The top four teams in the North and South Regionals advance to the State Tournament, so the Lions only need to win the 10 a.m. game to advance to state.
Should Lindsay Lane win the quarterfinal game, it would play either Covenant Christian or Cedar Bluff in the semifinal at 3:30 p.m. The championship and third-place games are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
All games will take place at the Von Braun Center North Hall in Huntsville.
“Objectively, this is the beset team we've had from the eye test, and statistically it's the best team we've ever had,” Dizon said. “With the growth of Athens, we've been very fortunate. The talent in Limestone and Athens has been good, and we've been fortunate to have our share of that talent.”
The team is led by seniors Madelyn Dizon, Bonnie Cundiff, Cara Glass and Caitlin Reeves. Dizon, Cundiff and Glass have played on the varsity team since the eighth grade, and have grown with the program.
“They've played together, gotten more experience, gotten a little bit stronger, a little bit taller and a little bit better every year,” Dizon said. “They have helped tremendously building this program up.”
Dizon said another difference between this year's team and last year's team is the lack of injuries. The Lions have been fortunate to avoid injuries this season, which Dizon attributes partly to not playing as many games as last season.
“Last year we played 54 matches, and we're at 43 now,” he said. “If we stayed healthy, we had a great chance last year, but injuries are part of the game. This year we've been very fortunate with staying healthy, and we've got some depth.”
Dizon said he wanted to avoid the old coaching cliché of his team “peaking at the right time,” but said the Lions are playing extremely well right now and come into the postseason playing their best volleyball.
“We're playing with a lot of confidence,” he said. “We're playing well and having fun. These girls want to play for each other, and represent the school well. It's been a joy to coach them this year. I feel pretty confident if we play the way we've been practicing, we're going to be a tough out.”