Survive and advance: That’s the mentality of teams come postseason tournament time and Area 7-AAA volleyball is no different.
Beginning at 5 tonight, the 11 teams in 7-AAA will begin their quests for one of the four spots out of the area in the Class AAA state playoffs, and for the area championship.
Or vice versa, for defending champion North Hall.
"First, we want to win (the area)," said first-year Lady Trojans’ coach Emi Hughes. "Being defending champions, we’d love nothing more than to repeat, and we set that goal to drive us.
"If we said that we only wanted to be in the top four, we’d be fifth."
North Hall (18-16, 7-3), the No. 5 seed, begins its bid for a repeat when it takes on No. 4 seed Johnson at 5 tonight at Creekview.
"We are in control of our own destiny, and have to bring our best stuff — we don’t have a choice," Hughes said. "I think we have a fairly good draw, and I feel confident playing Johnson first."
The two teams split during the regular season with North Hall winning 2-1 on Aug. 21 and Johnson (21-11, 7-3) winning 2-1 on Sept. 16. Each game in each match played by the teams was decided by less that six points.
"My girls have the skill and spirit to win (the area title)," said coach Deb Eidson. "We just have to put it all out there.
"This is what we’ve been working for."
The Lady Knights’ only area losses came to the tournament’s top three seeds: Creekview, West Forsyth and Flowery Branch. Johnson was swept in each of the matchups.
"It’s going to be a tough two nights," Eidson said. "These teams are consistent, and consistency is hard to beat."
Area 7-AAA newcomer Creekview is the tournament’s No. 1 seed with a 9-1 area record during the regular season.
Having earned a first-round bye, the Lady Grizzlies (25-13, 9-1) will take on the winner of the North Hall/Johnson matchuup at 6:15 tonight at Creekview.
"We have a good record going in," Creekview coach John Edwards said, "but it won’t be easy.
"This is probably the best area in Class AAA, and just because we have this record doesn’t mean we’ll win. We have to come to play."
Creekview’s only area loss came at the hands of Chestatee, which enters the tournament as the No. 6 seed; an indication of just how competitive the tournament could be.
The Lady War Eagles (15-10, 6-4) will take on No. 10 seed Gainesville at 5 tonight with the winner facing the No. 2 seed, and host, West Forsyth.
Chestatee swept Gainesville (3-21, 1-9) in their only regular-season meeting and lost 2-1 to West Forsyth (19-17, 9-2) on Oct. 7. The Lady Red Elephants, on the other hand, met West Forsyth twice during the regular season and was swept both times.
According to both Hughes and Eidson, the top six seeds showed during the regular season the potential to vie for a state berth and for the area title.
"This is a very competitive region," Eidson said. "There are no spots set in stone."
"It will definitely be a tough tournament," Hughes said. "We’ve got six teams and any of them could be in the top four.
"I think, though, that Flowery Branch is the team to beat."
The Lady Falcons (30-9, 8-2) are the No. 2 seed in the tournament, and with a first-round bye, will face the winner of the Pickens/Gilmer matchup at 6:15 tonight at West Forsyth.
Flowery Branch swept Pickens and Gilmer during the regular season.
"Flowery Branch brings the most consistent play of anybody," Hughes said. "But they are beatable."
North Hall and Creekview were the only two area teams to beat the Lady Falcons in the regular season, with both earning a sweep over Flowery Branch.
"With the way the regular season went," Hughes said, "If you aren’t on your game you will get beaten."
In other games, the No. 8 seed West Hall will take on East Hall at 5 tonight at Creekview with the winner playing the No. 1 seed at 6:15.
West Hall beat East Hall 2-1 in the teams’ lone game of the season. Both the Lady Spartans and Lady Vikings were swept by Creekview during the regular season.