With region volleyball tournaments about to get underway, it’s time for teams throughout Hall County to start punching their tickets to the state playoffs. Regardless of regular season stats and records, every team is on even footing, with four state tournament spots still up for grabs for the top finishers in each region event.
It’s a fact that has not been lost on Hall County tournament champion Gainesville or runner up North Hall, as the team’s turn their attention toward securing a No. 1 seed.
“Honestly, we’re just trying to stay the course,” Lady Trojans coach Emi Hughes said. “We’ve had a good area this year, and so it’s been a challenge every week. But my girls have responded and have won when we had to.”
North Hall will host the Region 7-3A tournament this Saturday after winning the area in the regular season, but Hughes said now is not the time for complacency.
Rather than falling back on the comfortability of playing in a familiar place, the Lady Trojans are looking at the home court advantage as a confidence booster. North Hall has won the region in each of the past three years — all of those wins coming as the No. 1 seed and host of the event.
“That just sets the tone for us that we took care of business in the regular season,” Hughes said. “That’s a reward in my mind, staying at home. And that’s what we’re used to doing, and so it helps to just keep that momentum up.”
Gainesville enters its region tournament as a No. 3 seed, but the Lady Red Elephants are no less confident in their chances of coming out on top.
Gainesville coach Randy Roys said his team’s consistent play throughout the season is what will give the Lady Red Elephants their biggest advantage Oct. 10 at for the 8-6A tournament at Apalachee High. Roys added that he specifically tailored the regular season schedule so that his team would be put in difficult situations early on, making adversity easier to overcome when it matters most.
“If your game changes to where you’re missing serves, you’re hitting balls out all the time and stuff, you’re done,” he said. “It’s being able to handle those high pressure situations. This team has shown it can do that.”
Both coaches said they would be leaning heavily on their seniors this week to keep the younger players in check as they aim for the highest possible state tournament seed. Gainesville and North Hall have each had success in state playoffs in recent years, and that experience will be invaluable throughout the postseason.
“Our seniors, thankfully they’ve been there, so they know what to expect,” Hughes said. “They know the challenges that we’ll face. We’ll get everyone’s best shot. They’re ready to respond with our best shot.”
Roys will be looking for a similar boost from his trio of seniors as they attempt to lock down a No. 1 seed and home field advantage through two rounds of the state playoffs.
But before either team can compete for a state title, both will have to prove their worth in an elimination setting. The biggest test is still yet to come for any team with championship aspirations, but the region tournament provides an important milestone in achieving that goal.
“It’s being able to handle those high pressure moments, and not blinking,” Roys said. “Not hesitating. Just do what you do and don’t worry about it. If you play scared, you’re going to mess up. It’s just having the confidence to go out there and perform.”