Montgomery Academy falls short in 4A Volleyball Finals

Westminster Christian 3, Montgomery Academy 2

BIRMINGHAM – Westminster Christian’s Meg Paparella pointed at setter Sarah Kim with a broad smile spread across her face.
The simple acknowledgment showed the appreciation for her teammate’s pass.
The point-and-smile celebration happened over and over and over again as Paparella tallied 22 kills – including the championship-clinching spike – to win the tournament MVP and lead the Wildcats to Thursday’s 25-23, 21-25, 25-17, 18-25, 15-13 victory over defending champ Montgomery Academy in the AHSAA 51st Elite Eight State Tournament Class 4A volleyball championship at the Birmingham CrossPlex’s Bill Harris Arena.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since last year,” Paparella said. “We came out with a bunch of energy.”
The Wildcats (41-8), coached by Holly Richards, earned the school’s first state volleyball championship while also denying Montgomery Academy from winning a fourth straight state title. The victory also avenged last year’s loss to Montgomery Academy in the 4A quarterfinals.
“Our composure in the fifth set is really a testament to how much these girls wanted a state championship. … They were not going to let anything stop them,” Richards said.
Calli Tanielu added 14 kills and 16 digs for Westminster, while Brianna Tinsley added 10 kills. Kim and Tygen Kross combined for 42 assists, and Paparrella had 18 digs.
Westminster Christian won the first set and built a 2-1 lead, but the defending champs rallied to force a winner-take-all fifth set. In the final set, Westminster Christian won five of the final six points.
Montgomery Academy (27-16), coached by AHSAA Hall of Famer Julie Gordon, got 18 kills from Elle McBride, 16 kills from Virginia Meacham and 13 kills from Caroline McDaniel. Addi Vinson dished out 54 assists and added 11 digs.
“They never gave up,” Gordon said of her team. “They came out and battled and won the fourth set and battled in the fifth. They never quit. They kept fighting. You can’t help but be proud of them.”
Montgomery Academy had won three straight state titles, winning 3A in 2018 and 2019 and 4A in 2020, but fell one win shy of a four-peat.
Added McBride, “We played the best we could and just fell short.”
Meg Paparella, Westminster (MVP); Brianna Tinsley, Westminster; Calli Tanielu, Westminster; Addi Vinson, Montgomery Academy; Virginia Beacham, Montgomery Academy; Elle McBride, Montgomery Academy.

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