Columbia wins Lady Bulldog Invitational

Bell's Jodi Waddle sneaks the ball past P.K. Yonge's Da'mar Wims
Bell's Jodi Waddle sneaks the ball past P.K. Yonge's Da'mar Wims at the Lady Bulldog Invitational on Saturday. (Photo by C.J.Gish)

The Columbia (Lake City) volleyball team is on a roll.

This past Friday and Saturday at the 8-team Lady Bulldog Invitational volleyball tournament at Bell High School, the Tigers (11-5) went 4-0 to win the event.

The LBI included two of the top eight teams in the state in Class 1A, along with Class 3A schools P.K. Yonge and Crescent City and 5A Columbia (Lake City).

Pool A featured Bell, PK Yonge, Crescent City, and Chiefland, while Pool B included Union County, Columbia, Lafayette (Mayo) and Trenton.

Bell, which was ranked eighth in the state in Class 1A heading into the tournament, matched up with Columbia in the championship game after both teams went 3-0 in their respective pools.

It was a very competitive championship game according to Bell volleyball coach Drue Barry, with Columbia winning both sets in a close game, 26-24 and 25-22.

“Both teams played well but I think Columbia had a little better offensive rhythm at the end of each set to secure the win,” Barry said. “We were right there in each set and up 24-23 in the first set but couldn’t close it out. Give Columbia a lot of credit, Trudy (Andrews) had her girls ready to play this weekend and they did a good job winning the tournament.”

It was the fifth straight win for Andrews’ Tigers.

Columbia wins 2022 Lady Bulldog Invitational in Bell
Courtesy of Columbia volleyball Columbia High School won the Lady Bulldog Invitational championship in Bell on Saturday.

“Teamwork, defense and consistency were a few keys to winning the Bell tournament,” Andrews said. “The seniors came into this weekend determined to win the tournament this season, so the whole team stepped up and worked together as a unit to make that happen.”

Freshman Sinei Wood led the way with 35 kills and she also added 20 digs. Wood added seven blocks and eight aces.

“The defense was ruthless and didn’t let a lot of balls hit the court,” Andrews said. “The offense was on fire and we were able to put the ball away. Our senior setter had an awesome weekend and was the spark plug of the team all weekend.”

Sophomore Cassidy O’Neal (five aces, four blocks) was next with 27 kills, followed by junior Autumn Jones (24 kills, five aces), and sophomore Avery Sandlin (15 kills, 12 aces, 27 digs).

Senior Bailey Campbell led the way with 41 digs, followed by senior Madison Glenn with 33 and junior Jaslin Maytin and senior Savannah Bailey with 24 each.

Glenn also had 82 assists.

Columbia has now won eight of its last nine games.

“Consistent defense from all six rotations have made a difference as well as everyone is more comfortable and settled into their roles,” Andrews explained. “Offensively, we have a lot of variety at the net and can put the ball away in a lot of different ways.”

The Tigers are back in action tonight at 6 p.m. at home against St. Francis Catholic Academy.

“Every time the ladies come into the gym, whether it is for practice or a match, they work extremely hard at making themselves better and their team better,” Andrews said. “Each and every player on our team is a selfless player.”

Union County's Emily Wilson with a hit against Columbia
Photo by C.J. Gish Union County’s Emily Wilson with a hit against Columbia at the Lady Bulldog Invitational on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Barry said “the girls fought hard this weekend” in earning wins over Crescent City, Chiefland, and P.K. Yonge.

“I really enjoy coaching this group of girls and they always give me 100% effort on the court,” he said. “Overall, it was a successful weekend. There are a few little things we need to tighten up, but I like where we are at and the potential this team has.”

The Bulldogs have a huge district game tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Branford, which is undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 1A by MaxPreps.

“There is not a lot of love lost between the teams, but I think a lot of it stems from both programs being very competitive and successful every year,” Barry said. “We beat Branford both times we played them last year, but they got a good transfer in from Lafayette (Mayo) that has helped them this year.”

The host Buccaneers are 13-0 so it will be another tough test for the Bulldogs (9-4), who are also grouped in Class 1A-District 6 with No. 10 Union County (Lake Butler) and No. 12 Fort White.

Bell is currently ranked seventh in the state so that’s four teams in the top 12 in the same district.

“We have played a very competitive schedule this year and I believe that will play a big role for us tonight,” Barry said. “For us to be successful tonight we have to continue to do all the little things right and not make the unforced errors.”

It will be a playoff-type atmosphere in Suwannee County on Monday night.

“I have no doubt both teams will be pumped up tonight and ready for the battle,” Barry said. “Whenever Bell and Branford play it is always an exciting match and great atmosphere. Mendy (Sikes) has done a great job at Branford, and we know we need to be ready to play tonight.”

LBI final standings:

1st – Columbia (Lake City) 4-0

2nd – Bell 3-1

3rd – Union County (Lake Butler) 3-1

4th – PK Yonge 1-3

5th – Crescent City 2-2

6th – Lafayette (Mayo) 1-3

7th – Chiefland 2-2

8th – Trenton 0-4

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