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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Elmore County's Madison Britt hits the ball.

The high school volleyball teams around Elmore County made up nearly half the field at the annual ECHS Block Party on Saturday but the local teams could get past the semifinals as they ran into stiff competition and beat up on each other along the way. Elmore County got the closest and added three more wins before falling 25-20, 25-22 to Alabama Christian in the semifinals.

The Panthers (12-9) breezed through pool play with wins over Park Crossing and Dadeville behind strong performances from Mirriam Foster, Kelley Green and Emma Brown. However, the hosts ran into a more difficult challenge during a rematch with Park Crossing in the quarterfinals.

The Thunderbirds forced a third set but Elmore County came away with a 19-17 win in the tiebreaker with the help of nine total kills. Foster recorded seven in the match while Green recorded six.

“We just have to play better mentally,” ECHS coach Kim Moncrief said. “We have girls with a lot of talent and we’re moving on the court okay, we’re just not playing mentally well. We needed to come back today and have a few competitive games to get back on the right track and I think we did that.”

Tallassee pushed into the quarterfinals of bracket play but it could not find a way past the strong competition from its pool. The Tigers faced Prattville Christian, Benjamin Russell and Stanhope Elmore in pool play and dropped all three of them before taking the No. 9 seed in the knockout stage.

“It’s nothing we aren’t used to,” Tallassee coach Katie Rigsby said. “I saw the pool and laughed a little bit because it was a tough pool. But that’s why you want to go to those tournaments; you want your girls to play tough teams because that’s how we’re going to get better.”

The Tigers bounced back with a straight-set victory against Holtville to set up a rematch with top-seeded and eventual tournament champions PCA in the quarterfinals. However, the Panthers proved to be too much again, pulling away from an early battle in both sets to sweep Tallassee.

“I was expecting to get a lot more accomplished than we did,” Rigsby said. “We just weren’t clicking very well. You hope to go to a Saturday tournament like that to work on some things you know you need to work on.”

Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore also both made it into the quarterfinals of the elimination round. The Indians had a strong run in pool play with wins over Holtville and Reeltown before losing to Alabama Christian.

“I thought we started off really well,” Wetumpka coach DeAnna Smith said. “One of our biggest challenges all season has been starting slow. This morning, they were firing on all cylinders and played those first matches well in all areas. That’s the biggest positive of the day.”

After a game break, Wetumpka returned to the court to face off with familiar opponent Benjamin Russell. The Wildcats had already defeated the Indians twice this season and they made it a clean sweep by knocking out Wetumpka with ease, winning 25-10, 25-17.

“They have smart players,” Smith said. “They have six seniors and they play really well together. They know how to play to our weaknesses. Hats off to them because they played really well again.”

Stanhope Elmore was looking to get extra experience for some of its younger players before the postseason began and coach Virginia Barber thinks the Mustangs got just what they wanted from the tournament.

“We brought up a few JV girls this weekend,” Barber said. “I told the girls I didn’t really care as much win or lose; I just wanted to work on different positions and get experience. We got in a bind last year at the end so that’s what we have been focused on. I thought we played really great Saturday.”

The Mustangs were in the same pool with Tallassee and saw some good competition, ultimately losing to the likes of Benjamin Russell, PCA and ACA.

“I don’t think our girls even realize they are playing that kind of team which is kind of a good thing,” Barber said. “But for us coaches, it’s good to see such high-quality teams so that when we go to regionals, we know what we will be facing.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.