Flowery Branch volleyball coach Bryan Mavis doesn’t want his team to get too comfortable with its cushy first round matchup Saturday against Morgan County (8-17-1) in the Class AAA state playoffs in Madison.
The cakewalk isn’t going to last too long for the Area 7-AAA runner-up and No. 2 seed Lady Falcons (33-11).
If Flowery Branch is able to make it to the third round of the single-elimination state volleyball tournament, it would likely result in a match against Class AAA’s No. 1-ranked St. Pius X. That’s a big difference from its first-round opponent, Morgan County, that got in as a result of being only one of five volleyball programs in Area 8-AAA.
"It’s kind of a double-edged sword for us," Mavis said. "Our main goal is to stay focused and just play our game."
The first rounds of the state playoffs are split between today and Saturday. North Hall (21-18) faces Hart County (36-11) at 1 p.m. today at Oconee County High in Watkinsville. The Lady Trojans finished as the No. 3 seed from Area 7-AAA last weekend with a loss to Flowery Branch on the final day of the tournament at Creekview.
Each team took a different path to earning a playoff berth. Flowery Branch battled Creekview in the Area 7-AAA finals last weekend in three hard-fought games. The Lady Grizzlies earned the win and the No. 1 spot in state.
In the finals, Jennica Ramey led the Lady Falcons with 28 assists and three kills. Maleigha King added seven kills and two blocks for Flowery Branch, and Danielle Miller also had seven kills. Mavis doesn’t worry that playing a weaker opponent in the first round will hamper the Lady Falcons’ enthusiasm.
"We’ve played fairly well against weaker opponents this season," Mavis added.
North Hall took the No. 3 spot in 7-AAA as a result of a loss to Flowery Branch last Saturday. Evann Rowland had 11 digs for the Lady Trojans, and Katherine Filchak added five blocks, four kills and a four-point service run for North Hall. The Lady Trojans made it to the state tournament on the back of wins in the Area tournament against Johnson, Chestatee and fellow playoff qualifier West Forsyth.
This marks North Hall’s third consecutive trip to the state playoffs.
"I couldn’t be more proud of how hard each of my players has worked to help get us to the state tournament," North Hall coach Emi Hughes said. "Our team has the desire to win, and I feel like they proved that in the Area tournament."
In Class A/AA, Lakeview Academy opens the state tournament against fourth-ranked Blessed Trinity (40-13) at Wesleyan. Jefferson visits Wesleyan at noon Saturday in Norcross. Buford faces Landmark Christian at 1 p.m. at Holy Innocents’.
Lakeview Academy starts the state playoffs as the No. 3 seed in Class A/AA following its split of two matches against Jefferson and Athens Academy last Saturday in Jefferson. Louisa Jacobs had 13 kills and three aces for the Lady Lions (15-17). Emily Norton had 30 assists for Lakeview Academy.
Lady Lions coach Karen Towles says its going to be a challenge, getting paired against a ranked team out of Area 7-A in the first round of the state tournament. She says all of Area 8-A’s teams are going to get challenged the way the brackets line up against what she calls the toughest Area in Class A/AA.
"Our girls are excited and have prepared all season to get ready for a trip to state," Towles said. "We’re just pumped to be able to get out there and play."
The state final four for Class AAA is Oct. 30 at Marist in Atlanta. Kell High is the host site for the final four in Class A/AA.