Regional volleyball: Fun-loving Spring Garden gets opening-round win in Huntsville

Oct. 26—HUNTSVILLE — It doesn't matter if Spring Garden's on a volleyball court, softball field or inside playing checkers: the Panthers are going to have fun.

During Spring Garden's dominant showing against Jefferson Christian in the first round of the Class 1A bracket on the North Regional, smiles, laughs and cheers took over the court.

The Panthers' time in Huntsville began with a quick sweep of Jefferson Christian (25-7, 25-6, 25-11) that took close to an hour to wrap up.

Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin was also impressed with the team's pace, quipping that it's "not that bad" when it goes as fast as it did.

"We missed a couple of serves early, looked a little nervous, expected that," Austin said. "Once the flow of the game got guarded, we just got started. I just thought we did what we do. It wasn't anything special, just played solidly, played clean, that's what I'd like to reference it to."

When Spring Garden caught fire, they ran with it.

The Panthers' first set saw them take a dominant 15-6 lead early, and they closed out with a 10-1 run that was started by an eight-point scoring streak. The second set started with a 12-point scoring streak and also had one of nine points immediately after.

Spring Garden also had a six-game scoring streak and two of five points in the third set.

Along with the team's ability to catch fire, Austin credits the team's tough schedule this season for the opening-round success.

"We settled into that pretty early and said, 'Hey, let's just do what we do,'" Austin said. "For the most part, we're pretty good at that for those three games."

One of the reasons for his team's success against Jefferson Christian were some strong plays from Olivia Law, who Austin said he hopes to see more great plays out of later in the tournament.

"I thought the last ball she hit was really good," Austin said. "I hope that's a good sign coming, but she jumps pretty well."

Spring Garden will face off against Shoals Christian in the second round with hopes of locking up a spot in the Class 1A state tournament. But, whatever the sport is, Austin can count on his players to want to win.

"They've been with me since third and fourth grade," Austin said. They played rec ball together in all sports and continue to stay together, and they just love competing. That's what's so fun about it. We could go play checkers or whatever right now, solitaire, play whatever and they're gonna want to win. That's just who they are. I've just got to give them a little bit of instruction and work on skill and stay out of their way."

Sports Writer Thomas Ashworth: 256-236-1551. On Twitter: @ThomasAshworth0.