SPORTS >> Jacksonville to host East conference tournament
Leader staff writer
The AAAAA-East volleyball conference tournament finally comes to Jacksonville this Saturday afternoon. The event was supposed to be at JHS last year, but flood damage to the gym due to a leaky roof forced it to Jonesboro.
Now, the Lady Devils have a new floor and probably the best chance to win the tournament they’ve ever had.
The field of five teams is wide open this year. For most of the past 15 years, Jonesboro has been the easy favorite to win the East’s top seed for the state tournament, and have done so.
This year, the Lady Hurricane finished 2-2 in league play and got the No. 2 seed behind 4-0 Moun-tain Home.
Jonesboro, 2-2, opens the tournament against Cabot, who finished 1-3 and got the five seed, at noon Saturday.
Jacksonville will play Sylvan Hills, 1-3, at 2 p.m. while Mountain Home just sits and waits for the final round.
Jacksonville coach Phil Bradley believes there are some advantages to playing the tournament at home, but also says it comes with extra distractions.
“It’s good to play it at home, I just wish there weren’t so many other things going on at the same time,” Bradley said. “There’s a big football game and a dance that weekend, and the ACT is being given here at our school. I know some teams had some players miss the tournament last year to take that test, and that’s likely to happen this year.”
The advantage, Bradley hopes, will come from the crowd. The head Devil believes the crowd helped his team in home matches against Sylvan Hills and Cabot, and hurt it at Mountain Home.
“We had just won game two and tied it up there (Mountain Home) when football practice let out and their classmates showed up,” Bradley said. “They really got behind those girls and I think it lifted them up, and maybe got to us a little bit. I think we had that same advantage against Sylvan Hills and Cabot. I know it’s a Saturday afternoon, but I hope we have some people show up to yell for our girls. I hope there’s a lot of students there.”
Cabot and Sylvan Hills have the opportunity to bring a crowd as well, and the opening-round matches should be exciting. Jonesboro beat Cabot three games to two in the conference matchup earlier this season. It was one of the most exciting matches of the year in the East.
Jacksonville beat Sylvan Hills 3-0 in the conference matchup at Jacksonville, and 3-1 in a non-conference match at Sylvan Hills.
That would tend to make one comfortable with the matchup, but not Bradley.
“It’s tough to beat a team three times in one year,” Bradley said. “Sylvan Hills has some kids capable of coming up big, and we can’t afford to go into that thing thinking we’ve got it won. There’s going to be one pretty good team not make it (to state).”