Across the state volleyball region championship tournaments are underway to determine postseason contenders for each classification, from the smallest A classified schools to the largest AAAAAA ones. Starr's Mill, McIntosh and Whitewater are all AAAAA schools and also in the same region, 4-AAAAA. Surprisingly, five of Region 4-AAAAA's teams are ranked in the top seven in the state. It could be argued that this region is perhaps one of the toughest to advance out of into the state tournament. Whitewater, ranked top in state and its region, got a bye in Thursday's evening action, but McIntosh and Starr's Mill came away with wins at Ola High in Henry County.
Starr's Mill, ranked sixth in state coaches polls, took on the host Ola Mustangs (ranked seventh), to whom they lost in the regular season. Point one of game one went to the Mustangs for their only lead of the night. Their hopes of winning evaporated faster than a rain shower on Georgia blacktop in July. Starr's Mill easily won 25-16.
Game two was all about the Panthers as well. Just as Ola was on the verge of tying the game three times, the Lady Panthers would pull ahead, the last time, at a score of Panthers 24, Mustangs 23. With game point on the line, a timely tip by Senior Claire Houghtaling sealed the victory, with the Panthers winning 25-23.
In a double elimination tournament, the Mustangs now face must-win games for the rest of the tournament which heads to Whitewater Saturday.
Contributing to the win for Starr's Mill were junior middle Diana Enriquez (5 kills, 4 blocks), sophomore Jessi Schriver (3 kills, 2 blocks), and seniors Claire Houghtaling (7 kills), Nikki Resler (5 kills, 1 ace) and Jenny Tomasello (2 kills, 2 aces).
Coach Michael Melvin said, "Initially we were in a three-way tie for fourth place going into tournament play with Ola and Union Grove. We won the tie-breaker to get seeded fourth, due to scores, but I know this game tonight will be tough. Ola wants to advance as much as we do. The new region this year has blurred the top contenders for our region, which has usually been clearly defined. There were those great teams on the top and then not so great teams at the bottom, but not this year. We have five ranked teams in our region. No one else can say that."
Playing simultaneously on an adjacent court were the second ranked McIntosh Chiefs playing against Mount Zion, Jonesboro. Although the Lady Bulldogs gave it their best shot, they were the clear underdogs in the match, falling in two (25-10, 25-10). Contributing offensively for the Lady Chiefs were seniors Breana Jones (2 kills, 1 block), Ashley Young ( 5 kills, 1 block) and Becca Miller (3 kills), juniors Miara Bryant (3 kills, 2 blocks), Rhana Mitchell (8 kills, 4 aces), Rhegan Mitchell (3 kills, 3 aces), Abbi Schelkopf (3 kills, 4 aces) and Kassandra Robert ( 1 ace) and finally sophomore Paige Wooten (5 aces).
Play resumes Saturday at Whitewater, both schools playing at Noon. Starr's Mills will face Whitewater while McIntosh will battle Northgate. The top four finishers Saturday will advance to the state tournament.