A volleyball legacy Homewood is proud to carry

Russell Dearing, Staff Writer

Varsity girls’ volleyball huddles during a timeout. (Photo by Russell Dearing)

When Homewood volleyball hosts its annual, end-of-season Margaret Blalock-Memorial tournament this weekend, the team’s focus will be on more than its matches.

The venerated tournament honors Dr. Margaret Blalock, one of the most influential women in high school sports history, who lost her life to breast cancer at the age of 55.

For every ticket sold, a dollar of the revenue is given to UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. Additionally, the Alabama Women’s Sports Foundation grants a $2,000 scholarship to one senior girl participating in the tournament.

Former Patriot volleyball head coach Carol Chesnutt says that Homewood’s role in hosting the tournament is incredibly “special” because of how “instrumental [Blalock] was in women’s sports in Alabama.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Montevallo, Blalock returned a few years later to establish a women’s athletic program at the University. After doing so, she served as the head coach of the first women’s volleyball team. 

Her outreach was not limited to that of the collegiate level, however.  Blalock was instrumental in creating the Alabama Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Association (AWISA), one of the biggest advancements in women’s athletics. 

She also helped write the “WE BELIEVE” statement in the mid-1980s, which helped bolster the success of high school girls across the state. 

The Blalock tournament was established by the University of Montevallo to honor her legacy after Blalock lost her life to breast cancer at 55. The tournament is organized and carried out by former colleagues, students, and athletes that she had coached throughout the years. 

Under the supervision of Susan Cook, one of Dr. Blalock’s former students, the tournament moved to Homewood High School in 1988. After retiring in 2003, Cook passed the responsibility on to Chesnutt, another of Blalock’s former students. 

Due to the magnitude of the tournament, the turnout is spectacular, attracting teams Chestnutt describes as the “best of the best.” For this reason, specifically, senior captains Syndey Humes and Mary Przybysz anticipate the tournament greatly. 

“It’s a good mix of talent all across the board,” Humes explains, adding that “it’s definitely something that I look forward to.”

Przybysz agrees, calling it “a great way to see a lot of really good teams.”

Seniors Olivia Jackson and Sydney Humes warming up, the team sporting pink jerseys. (Photo by Frank Long)

Fellow senior Maddie Cobb adds that the tournament has its regulars such as McGill-Toolen, formerly known as the dirty-dozen, due to their twelve consecutive state titles. Furthermore, 7A powerhouses Hoover, Vestavia Hills, and Spain Park usually show their faces as well. 

6A newcomer Bayside (currently ranked second in the state) also joins the ranks, as well as a few wildcards who jump in every year, all of which Cobb calls “great competition and opportunities to grow.”

The girls also love that the Patriots host the tournament, citing its high energy and electric atmosphere as highlights of the season. 

To raise awareness for breast cancer, the Patriots sport all-pink jerseys for the weekend, a tradition that Przybysz says “is incredibly fun for the entire team.” Further paying homage to Dr. Blalock, Homewood requests that all participants and fans wear pink also.

Despite the excitement leading up to the tournament, this year will be bittersweet for Humes and Przybysz. The current captains, who have played on the varsity team since sophomore year, admit that it is a sentimental event they will miss greatly.

However, the pair is looking forward to the postseason and how far they can take their team. 

The Patriots will compete against Briarwood to conclude the regular season the following Tuesday, 10/11, and will begin postseason play Thursday, 10/13.