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Hartselle wins 5A state title

BIRMINGHAM – The final goal on Hartselle’s 2012 commemorative volleyball has been checked off.

In its first ever state championship appearance, Hartselle defeated defending champion St. Paul’s 25-21, 25-23, 25-21 to win its first volleyball state championship at the Birmingham Crossplex.

“They’re dying to check that off right now,” laughed head coach Tanya Lybarger. “Our manager senior and film guy checked off the area championship. One of our two seniors checked off the super-regional and the other that’s been with us the longest will check off the state championship.”

The volleyball tradition is something that Hartselle does every year. At the end of the regular season, the team comes together, writes encouraging words.

With those words are the goals that Hartselle has each season. Hartselle made sure to take a picture with that volleyball with the state championship trophy.

“We didn’t want to end the year with one of those not checked off,” said Taylor Lybarger, the coach’s daughter. “We did that last year and we’ve been here the past seven years… It just felt amazing.”

From the opening serve of state championship match, Hartselle was celebrating.

It didn’t matter whether it came off an error by St. Paul’s or if one of Hartselle’s hitters came up with a big kill; the celebration was the same.

“We knew that if we did not celebrate every single point, there could be an opportunity for them get that energy and steal it away from us,” said Taylor Dellinger, the Class 5A Elite Eight MVP. “So we knew we had to keep that energy throughout the entire match.”

The key to the match for Lybarger was shutting down St. Paul’s Shelley Spires.

“We knew 14 was the one we had to make sure we shut her down, “I told them we cheat to her… I rather put a single on the other ones and double on her.”

That strategy worked. Hartselle came up with at least 19 blocks led by Haley Jared with nine blocks. She also had five kills and seven digs.

Spires was held to just 14 kills, six digs and two blocks.

The MVP led the team with 14 kills, five blocks and 19 digs. Taylor Lybarger came up with 14 kills, three blocks, 16 digs and an ace.

And don’t forget the effort given by setter Melissa Paul Hill. She had 24 assists, 10 digs, four aces and two blocks. Libero Sarah Ellen Battles added 19 digs.

Tanya Lybarger said the key to the championship was how well the team came together through their struggles of the regular season and the team’s senior leadership.

“I’ve had great teams from the last several years. I don’t want to take anything away from what they did,” the coach said. “They paved this road for us. We’ve started here in 2006 and the teams before that paved it.

“There wasn’t a girl on that whole team that cared who got the glory,” she added. “They just wanted that blue trophy. They were willing to do their job no matter what it was. If it’s keeping a stat book or just going into serve – they all laid it all out.”

Hartselle saved its best for last as St. Paul’s never had the lead in any set after Hartselle got to the 20-point threshold in each set.

“Everybody put forth every effort,” Taylor Lybarger said. “That was probably the best everybody ever played.”