ORANGE BEACH – The Orange Beach Mako volleyball team notched the program’s first win over Gulf Shores, 2-1, Thursday night at home but it was not secured until the very final point of the …
ORANGE BEACH – The Orange Beach Mako volleyball team notched the program’s first win over Gulf Shores, 2-1 (25-15, 24-26, 17-15), Thursday night at home but it was not secured until the very final point of the third and decisive set.
The island teams met in the third and final contest of a tri-match with the Curry Yellowjackets but after both the Makos and Dolphins won a set in a best two-of-three series, one more stanza was needed to determine a winner.
There, the score was tied at 9, 10, 11, 14 and 15 points before Orange Beach finally prevailed on a Gulf Shores attack that sailed out of bounds. Mako head coach Sunne Young said that was the story for both her team and the Dolphins in the latter two sets.
“Both the second and third sets came down to mistakes on both sides of the net. Our mistakes in the second and unfortunately Gulf Shores’ mistakes in the third,” Young said. “It was such a hard-fought game that the mistakes – in the third set in particular – were costly, but there were not as many as you’d expect. It really just came down to a ball out, simple execution.”
Program history for Orange Beach
Although it was only the third recorded meeting between the island schools, Thursday night’s win marked the first time the Makos beat the Dolphins on the volleyball court.
In 2019, Orange Beach fell to Gulf Shores 2-1 and just last year, the Makos lost to the Dolphins 2-0 in tournament play.
While both teams brought loud fanbases to cheer them on, Young said this win will be one they’ll reference down the road.
“We’ll take this momentum all the way through the season and we’ll remind them of this moment,” Young said. “It’ll be really great to be able to reference this all throughout the season and remind them of how great they were, how great they can be and how great they can come back and fight against match point.”
Second-set magic for Gulf Shores
Of course, there wouldn’t have even been a third set had the Dolphins not stormed back to take the second set, 26-24, thanks in part to a handful of diving saves from libero Carson Harris and the defense which allowed outside hitter Lily Zlab to rack up the kills.
“We didn’t play real well against Spanish Fort this week so we had to regroup to try to see what we need to work on and we realized that our defense (was lacking) and we’re not hustling; we needed more touches on the ball,” Gulf Shores head coach Karen Atkins said. “I was telling our kids, ‘You have to learn how to fight, how to battle and go after every single ball; every single ball matters.’ I think that they really worked on that tonight and I’m very proud of them.”
Not a rivalry but a community
Both head coaches noted Thursday night’s match in Orange Beach had extra energy not because of a crosstown rivalry but more because of the teams’ familiarity with each other through the Pleasure Island Volleyball Club.
“Our girls play club volleyball together and we coach together so we all train really hard and we train these kids to love the game of volleyball,” Atkins said. “We’re really a volleyball community. I respect them and I know they respect us and our kids play on the same clubs. I love the environment, I love their kids like I love mine so it’s great. I think it’s wonderful that everybody gets fired up for it, but they love each other; it’s like they’re sisters.”
“Obviously we’re crosstown rivals, but we love each other. Eric and I coach eight of those girls and we love them dearly, we’re friends with the coach,” Young said. “It’s the most important thing: sportsmanship, love for each other and support for each other. When we’re not playing them, I’ll tell you I’m rooting for them. This island community is just that, an island community and we all stick together, even with our fanbases cheering against each other.
However, if those fans were to come together, Young sees that being a tactical advantage.
“Goodness help the opponents that have to face either of us when we have to support each other,” Young said. “We’re going to be huge because we truly love and support each other, no matter what.”
While the Makos remained undefeated with their tri-match victories, they were set to face a slew of teams in their host tournament this weekend.
Among the opponents include the Dolphins, where Atkins said Thursday night may not have been the last her Gulf Shores team saw the Orange Beach squad.
“We just have to keep getting better and we’ll play them in the tournament with them this weekend,” Atkins said. “Who knows, maybe we end up in the championship together.”