SPORTS >> Volleyball playoffs get started this week
Leader sports editor
The class AAAAA and class AAAA state volleyball tournaments get underway Thursday, with Jacksonville, Cabot and North Pulaski vying for their respective shots in those events.
After a one-year break, the AAAAA state tournament is back in Cabot, where it was a mainstay for several years.
Cabot and Jacksonville continued their long strings of playoff berths, but Cabotís stretch of six-straight seasons with at least one playoff win is in jeopardy this year. The Lady Panthers managed to slip into the playoffs, but as the No. 4 seed from the East, meaning a first-round date with defending state champion and No. 1 ranked Fort Smith Northside at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Jacksonville is back as the No.3 seed from the East, which it took into the state tournament for four straight years until moving up to grab the No.2 seed last season.
Oddly, Jacksonville will again face North Little Rock in the first round, the same team it has met in the opening round for three of the last four years.
Cabot and Jacksonville are on opposite sides of the bracket, so in the unlikely event the two meet in the tournament, it will be in the championship round on Saturday.
Jacksonville opens the tournament at noon Thursday in the Cabot annex gym. At the same time, AAAAA-South winner Benton will play West No.4 seed Russellville in the main gym.
The other two matches in the top half of the bracket pit Jonesboro, the East champion, against Little Rock Central, and Fort Smith Southside against Texarkana.
Northside and Cabot get the bottom half started in the main gym while South No.2 seed Sheridan meets Central three Mount St. Mary.
Sheridan meets Central No.3 seed Mount St. Maryís.
The final two matches of the first round features Central champion Conway against South No.4 seed Lake Hamilton, and East No.2 seed Mountain Home squaring off against Bentonville, the No.3 seed from the West.
The quarterfinals will be at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Friday. After a break, the winners return to play the semifinal matches at 4 and 6 p.m. The championship match is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.
North Pulaski kicks off the class AAAA state tournament against the third-place team from the East, Paragould.
If the Lady Falcons can pull off the victory, they will meet the winner between Southwest champion Hot Springs Lakeside and Alma, the No.4 seed from the West conference. The rest of the top of the bracket includes West No2. seed, Siloam Springs taking on Southwest No.3 seed Malvern, and East No.2 seed Marion facing Southeast No.3 seed JA Fair.
East winner and tournament host Wynne plays Pulaski Rob-inson at 4 p.m. The winner of that match faces the winner of the Morrilton-Arkadelphia matchup.
Southeast champ Mills plays the East No.4 seed Nettleton, and Magnolia plays Greenwood at 6 p.m. to close out the first round of play. The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals for the AAAA tournament are on the same schedule at the AAAAA tournament.