Mount Zion players show off their county championship trophy after defeating rival Jonesboro in the title game over the weekend. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — Mount Zion may have labored a little more than they would have liked, but the Bulldogs were happy with the end result.
After battling through the losers bracket, and then being taken to five sets, Mount Zion defeated Jonesboro in the best-of-five series in the Clayton County Volleyball Championship match over the weekend.
The win ended the Cardinals 13-year run as the county champions. Mount Zion won 25-21, 25-18, 20-25, 19-25, 19-17 in the championship match to cap off the one-day, double elimination tournament.
“They have been winning it for 13 years, now it was our turn,” Mount Zion senior Chelsae Bryant said.
“Oh my God, we finally beat them,” Bulldogs junior Tatiania Screven said. “Our hard work finally paid off. It is unbelievable.”
Mount Zion had to come through the losers bracket after suffering a loss to Drew in its second match. The Bulldogs opened the tournament with a win over Morrow before losing to Drew. They would go on to defeat Forest Park and Drew in a rematch before meeting Jonesboro in a highly anticipated championship match.
This was the second time this season that the Bulldogs had defeated Jonesboro.
But this time might have been sweeter.
“This team has been in the making the last four years,” Mount Zion coach Earl Simmonds said.
After winning the first two sets, Jonesboro would even it with two straight wins.
“This is the way it was supposed to be,” Simmonds said. “It don’t think it would have been good to sweep them. This was two good teams going at each other. I told my girls that Jonesboro would not go away.”
And he was right.
Jonesboro seemed to have gotten the momentum after tying the series. The Cardinals seemed to have the advantage for a fifth set because Mount Zion had just came off a match against Drew in the semifinals.
But the well-rested Cardinals were not able to finish off Mount Zion after being one point away from the championship.
“I told my girls that I wasn’t going home without that trophy,” Simmonds said.
Twice during the match, Mount Zion’s top player Ashante Finnie had to leave the game because of leg cramps. Another of their starters went out with a leg injury.
“I really can’t described this feeling,” Finnie said. “I think we deserved to win it.”
Both teams will now turn their attention to competing in upcoming area meets this month. Mount Zion plays in Area 4-AAAAA, which consists of powerhouses Northgage, McIntosh, Union Grove and Whitewater. Bulldog players say winning the area has boost their confidence.
“We can play with anybody, if we are playing at our best,” Bryant said.
“This win has given us a lot of confidence,” Finnie said. “We are looking forward to our area tournament.”
Jonesboro will compete in the Area 4-AAAA tournament.
“This will serve as a wake-up call,” Jonesboro senior Kendall Thomas said. “It was a hard fought match. We have to move on and get ready for our area now.”