Posted: Tuesday, October 8th 2013 at 3:58am
Area volleyball teams begin quest for state
By Jeff Hart Staff
While there is plenty of talent to go around in northeast Georgia, area volleyball teams will have their hands full as they try to advance to the upcoming state tournament.
Area tournaments get under way beginning Tuesday, and except for Area 6-AA, where all four teams automatically qualify, no team has a secure path into the playoffs. All the tournaments are double-elimination format.
In 6-AA, Jefferson and Rabun County sit third and fourth behind second-ranked Wesleyan and fourth-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian. The first round will be held at Rabun County with Wesleyan taking on the host Lady Wildcats (5 p.m.) and Jefferson playing GAC (6 p.m.) on Tuesday.
The loser’s will play at 7 p.m. at Rabun County for third place and the winners will move on the Thursday’s finals at GAC.
Jefferson coach Michael Paul, whose fifth-ranked Lady Dragons (30-10) have played GAC tough in two close losses, said he is hoping that the third time will be the charm.
“We’ve played them tough both times and it’s hard to beat a good team three times. We feel we’re a good team and hopefully we can find a way to knock them off,” Paul said. “We feel good about how we’re playing right now. Defense will be the key for us.”
In Area 6-A, Lakeview Academy is trying to advance to its second straight state tournament. The Lady Lions (21-12) come into Thursday’s opening round as the No. 3 seed in what figures to be a very tough tournament.
No. 1 seed Hebron Christian is ranked second in Class A and No. 2 seed Athens Academy is ranked tenth. The first round will be held at both Athens Academy and Hebron. At Athens Academy, the host Lady Spartans will take on Tallulah Falls while Lakeview will play George Walton Academy. At Hebron, host Hebron will take on Athens Christian while Providence Christian will play Prince Avenue. All four matches will begin at 5 p.m. with the winner’s and loser’s taking on each other 6:15 p.m.
The teams will move to the final round, which will begin at 10 a.m. at Providence Christian on Saturday. The finals will be at 3:30 p.m.
Lakeview coach Rena Millwood said her squad is ready for the challenge.
“I feel like we’re a state-caliber team and if we play the way we’re capable of, we can win it,” Millwood said. “Hebron is probably a big favorite but we’re right there to get second. This may be the best Lakeview team in a while and we can beat anyone when we’re on our game. We’re ready to see how we do.”
The Lady Lions are led by senior Shelby Ross and junior Katie White, both solid outside hitters. Sam Versteeg sets the table for Ross and White and is also their defensive specialist.
No area tournament in the state in any classification may be tougher than 5-AAA, however. Four of the top six ranked teams in Class AAA make 5-AAA their home, including Nos. 1 and 2 Blessed Trinity and St. Pius. Buford is ranked fourth and North Hall sixth.
St. Pius, the top seed, and Blessed Trinity, the No. 2 seed, will play host to the first round matches on Tuesday. The finals will be held Thursday at North Hall.
North Hall coach Emi Hughes was more than pleased with how the Lady Trojans finished the season winning 15 of their final 18 matches, losing only to St. Pius, North Gwinnett, and Buford.
“We’re playing very well right now,” Hughes said. “We have the pieces to do well. St. Pius and Blessed Trinity are loaded and I would say are heavy favorites.
“But we can beat anyone else if we play to our capabilities. We would be very disappointed at this point if we didn’t make the (state) tournament. That’s our goal.”
Junior outside hitter Sydney Cleveland and senior setter Kristina Gregory have led North Hall most of the season.
At Blessed Trinity, the host Lady Titans will take on Decatur and Buford and East Hall will meet in 5 p.m. matches. The loser’s of both matches will meet at 6:15 p.m. with the loser of that match eliminated.
East Hall coach Ted Deppe is hoping his squad can regain the form it had when it opened the season with 14 straight wins. The Lady Vikings (28-17) were limping at the end of the regular season having lost four of their last six.
“We have a lot of talent and enough of it to make the state tournament,” Deppe said. “But we may have peaked too early. How well we do will depend on which team shows up for us.”
The Lady Vikings have two of the state’s statistical leaders in senior Tarryn Long, who leads the state in all classifications with 497 kills. Senior Kara Hix leads the state in digs with 730 and needs 15 more to become Georgia’s all-time career leader in digs. She set a state record last year with the most digs in a season with 793.
Buford (27-9) will pose a difficult challenge for East Hall. The Lady Wolves are as hot as team in the area having gone 20-2 down the stretch, losing only to St. Pius and Blessed Trinity.
Buford is led by seniors Maggie Roper and Bree Horrocks, as well as freshmen Gabby Curry, Morgan Mitchell, and Amanda Hopkins.
Outside hitters Roper and Curry have played extremely well all season for the Lady Wolves. Roper leads the team with 257 kills and 59 aces while Curry has amassed 200 kills and 69 aces. Freshman setter Mitchell has 402 assists and Hopkins leads the team in blocks with 46.
Horrocks has stepped up in big games for the Lady Wolves defensively with 39 blocks, and offensively with 117 kills.
"We are really excited about taking on some of the best in the state during the area tournament, and we feel confident that our girls will come ready to play,” Buford coach Hadli Daniels said. “We like being the underdogs and hope to show that we can play with the best of the powerhouses in the area and state."
In Area 8-AAAAA, ninth-ranked Apalachee is the favorite when the first round begins with play-in games on Tuesday. The Lady Red Elephants and Flowery Branch are seeded third and fourth, respectively, and will begin play on Thursday.
Flowery Branch will open with Loganville on Thursday while Gainesville will take on Heritage, Conyers at 6 p.m.
The Lady Falcons offer a balanced attack led by senior outside hitter Bailey Smith and junior outside hitter Katie Hall. Erin McGlone and Madeleine Tulk, both middle blockers, give Flowery Branch the chance to negate some of the regions best hitters. The setting tandem of Gabrielle Burke and Chanel Lear has been effective during the second half of the season.
Flowery Branch coach Richard Godfrey said to expect a wide-open tournament.
“All of the teams in our region are very competitive and it should be quite the battle,” Godfrey said. “We have been making improvements and are finally starting to come together as a team.”
The Area 8-AAAA tournament, which will begin Thursday at Monroe Area, will feature area teams Chestatee, Johnson, and Lumpkin County. Chestatee will open the tournament on Thursday against Eastside.
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