BIRMINGHAM — Taylor Dellinger turned and watched as the ball floated beyond the backside boundary.
By the time the Hartselle High outside-hitter looked up, the mob had already taken over.
The comeback was complete — and history was made.
Using a furious comeback, Hartselle rallied past rival Brewer 3-1 Wednesday afternoon in the Class 5A volleyball state semifinals, advancing to the championship match for the first time ever. The Lady Tigers won 25-21, 18-25, 25-17, 25-23.
Hartselle advances to play two-time defending state champion St. Paul’s today at 10:30 a.m.
“We’ve been saying it all year, that this is our time,” Hartselle coach Tanya Lybarger said. “We’ve been so close to getting here in the past. It feels good to finally get over that hump.”
Hartselle had been waiting for this moment. The Lady Tigers are making their seventh straight appearance in the state tournament, and they have reached the semifinals four years in a row.
So when the final point was scored, Hartselle’s players didn’t hold back their celebration.
“There’s a good chance that I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight,” Hartselle middle-hitter Taylor Lybarger said. “I can’t stop shaking right now. My adrenaline is out of control. It’s a great feeling.”
“It’s like a big ol’ party with the best fans in the building,” Dellinger said while pointing to a large and enthusiastic student section. “Right now, this moment is unbelievable.”
Hartselle earned its magical moment by following its same blueprint for success.
Big hits from Dellinger, Taylor Lybarger and Haley Jared were plentiful, and getting a ball to land on Hartselle’s side of the court required lots of work.
Dellinger led Hartselle with 19 kills and 22 digs, while Jared added 11 kills and eight digs. Lybarger finished with nine kills, 32 digs and two aces.
Melissa Paul Hill finished with 45 assists to lead Hartselle.
“The way we’re playing right now, I think we’ve got a shot to win this thing,” Taylor Lybarger said. “Everything has come together. Everything is going right. This is something we’ve wanted for a while. We wanted to make history.”
Brewer made Hartselle earn its spot in the state title match. Nothing came easy.
Brewer’s talented front line played tough. Riley Northway led the Lady Patriots with 19 kills and three blocks, while Savana Flack pounded out 16 kills with three blocks. Cheyenne McLemore added 10 kills and 25 digs.
Behind that front line, Brewer pulled away for a sound win in the second game, and the Lady Patriots were on the verge of forcing a fifth game after building a 20-12 lead.
But Hartselle made sure that didn’t happen. Dellinger and Jared provided several high-velocity kills, leading the Lady Tigers on a 13-3 run to win the match.
“These girls are warriors,” Tanya Lybarger said. “They never quit fighting, and now we get a shot to play for it all. This is a great moment for these girls.”
Hartselle 3, Saraland 0: Taylor Dellinger led Hartselle with 13 kills and 17 digs as the Lady Tigers won their quarterfinal match.
Taylor Lybarger finished with 11 kills and 12 digs, while Melissa Paul Hill finished with 27 assists.
Brewer 3, Rehobeth 1: After losing the opening game, Brewer never trailed again in the match, eliminating Rehobeth in the quarterfinals.
Northway led Brewer with 19 kills and three aces, while Flack added 16 kills, four blocks and five aces.
Shelby Dooley and McLemore combined for 60 digs, and Reed Sowder finished with 25 assists.
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