Donoho was forced onto the tightrope in the middle two sets of a state title match, splitting both, but found enough balance to curtail any hopes of an opponent rally.
The top-ranked Falcons steamrolled through the first and final sets as they clinched a 3-1 win over No. 9 Pleasant Valley, 25-18, 25-22, 24-26 and 25-16, to win its second straight state title in the 2022 AHSAA Class 2A title match Wednesday at Birmingham’s Bill Harris Arena.
Donoho (44-13) has won three titles in the last four seasons, bringing its program total to 13 championships.
“So proud of these seniors and all they accomplished,” first-year Donoho coach Anna Taylor said. “From the beginning of the year, we knew we had a lot of spots to fill. Walking into this as a new coach, I knew there was so much experience and talent and confident we could put the pieces together to be contenders.”
Senior Lily Grace Draper took home tournament MVP honors in leading the Falcons with 34 digs and 22 kills in the title match.
“It really is an honor to be MVP on such a great team,” Draper said. “All of our players are great and they all had great games. I’m so proud of how everyone played today.”
Donoho opened the first set in dominating fashion, taking a 6-2 lead before expanding its advantage to 12-7 on the back of another 6-2 run. Pleasant Valley closed the gap to 15-10, then used an 8-6 run to pull within earshot of the Falcons. Donoho’s Samantha Wakefield assisted on three kills and an error by the Raiders allowed the Falcons to close out with the 25-18 set victory.
Both teams battled to a 6-all tie in the second set, and Donoho took command with a 9-4 run to build its lead to 15-10 midway through the frame. Pleasant Valley managed to tie the set back up at 23-all but Wakefield and Mary Marshall Perry combined for the final two kills — assisted by Draper — to give Donoho a 2-0 advantage in the match.
The Falcons appeared to have all the momentum on their side to open the third frame, taking an early 5-2 lead, but Pleasant Valley took an 11-7 lead on the back of a 9-2 run. Donoho reasserted itself with a 5-0 run, taking a 12-11 lead, but the Raiders battled to an 18-all tie before taking control on a 6-2 run. The Falcons scored four straight points to force a 24-all tie but Pleasant Valley closed out the third-set win on kills by Madison Schwabe and Allie Bryant.
“We knew we had to go fast because Pleasant Valley is a very good team, they’re very scrappy,” Wakefield said. “After we lost that third set, we just had to keep it rolling and not give up.”
Donoho took no chances in the final set, breaking an early tie with a 14-2 run to take a 16-8 lead over the Raiders. Pleasant Valley got as close as six points in the frame but could not overcome Donoho’s early dominance, falling 25-16 in the fourth set.
Stat sheet: Draper led the Falcons with 22 kills, followed by Perry with 13 kills and eight digs. Ansley Simmons had 11 kills and seven digs, Wakefield finished with 52 assists, 22 digs, seven kills and three aces, and Sarah Waggoner added 16 digs. Ryals Jones and Estella Connell combined for 15 kills with two blocks each.
For the Raiders, Bryant led the way with 12 kills, adding 17 digs and five assists, followed by Henry with 11 kills, nine digs and two aces. (Madison) Schwabe finished with 12 digs and nine kills, Madi Hay had 12 digs, and (Maddie) Schwabe contributed 29 assists, 21 digs and two aces. Ella Parris added 19 digs and six kills.
All-Tournament Team: Joining Draper (MVP) on the All-Tournament team were teammates Perry and Wakefield, along with Pleasant Valley’s Bryant, Henry and (Maddie) Schwabe.