October 17, 2012

Prep volleyball: Teams eye trip to the next round

Two prep volleyball teams are staying here and two squads are heading out there.

Southeast Whitfield and Dalton, which finished first and second in Area 7-4A, will host today in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs. Meanwhile, North Murray and Northwest Whitfield are also in the playoffs — in the Class 3A and 4A brackets, respectively — but both teams must win on the road to keep their seasons alive.

Southeast’s Lady Raiders host Lanier at 5:30 p.m., while Dalton’s Lady Catamounts welcome Chestatee for a 6 p.m. start. North Murray’s Lady Mountaineers will play at Stockbridge’s Jackson, while the Lady Bruins travel to Johnson-Gainesville, with both of those matches at 5:30 p.m. All of the state matches are best-of-five format.

Lanier at Southeast Whitfield

The Lady Raiders (34-10) are becoming an established volleyball program on a statewide level, and they plan to show a new school what that looks like.

Lanier’s Lady Longhorns, the No. 4 seed from Area 8, will travel from Sugar Hill for their first appearance in the state playoffs, taking on Southeast as the first round whittles the 32-team field to 16. Lanier opened in 2010.

“They don’t have any seniors,” Southeast coach Jake Dickey said. “They have a couple of juniors and mostly sophomores and freshmen.”

Southeast, fresh of a second consecutive area championship, is ranked second in the Ga.Prep.Country.com Class 4A coaches poll. No one from Area 8 is in the top 10, while Area 7 has both the Lady Raiders and eighth-ranked Heritage-Catoosa.

“I think our area is fairly strong, and I think all four teams will have a chance,” Dickey said.

Lanier (6-16) went 1-6 against area competition during the regular season, but made a run in the area tournament to prolong its season.

“For them to qualify, it has to be exciting for them,” Dickey said.

Southeast has plenty of experience in the state playoffs since Dickey took over as head coach in 2006. The Lady Raiders are making their fifth state appearance with him, and they have advanced to the second round the past three seasons.

Still, Dickey believes his seniors — Hannah Graham, Megan Collins and McKayla Burse — have a mindset that prevents overconfidence.

“This is a weird team,” he said. “You’d think that might be a problem, but I think our seniors know every game has the potential to be their last. So I don’t think that is a problem. If I had a younger team then maybe they’d think, ‘Oh, we won the area so we’re really good.’”

Dickey knows nothing about Lanier’s style of play or the quality of player at each position. That has resulted in Southeast paying attention to Southeast in preparation.

“We work our first contacts — serving and serves received,” Dickey said. “If you can do that better, then you will win. We’ve worked that a lot and (Tuesday) was one of our better practices.”

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