As Cherokee County's six teams face off this week in the county volleyball tournament, a few matches could have intensity of a state playoffs.
The tournament will begin at 5 p.m. Thursday at Cherokee and Etowah, with Cherokee hosting River Ridge and Woodstock, and Etowah hosting Creekview and Sequoyah. Three matches will be played at each of the two locations Thursday night, with the remainder of the tournament to be played Saturday at Sequoyah beginning at 9 a.m.
The tournament is a round-robin format, with each team playing five matches. The team with the best record will claim the title.
The county tournament serves as a final preparation before region tournaments take place next week, and for teams hoping for long postseason runs, the competition can serve as a taste of what’s to come.
“It’s always bragging rights for the county, especially when a lot of the girls know each other and play together on club teams,” Sequoyah coach John Edwards said. “It’s also a great tune-up for region play. Since we usually have several state-ranked teams in the county, it gives this tournament a different atmosphere, which makes it important. You know you’re going to get the best effort from the teams you’re going to play. I don't think it would be the same if we played this three or four weeks earlier.”
No team in Cherokee County has had a better regular season than Sequoyah.
The Lady Chiefs (28-1) are ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAAA by Score Atlanta and No. 5 in the state among all classifications by MaxPreps. Sequoyah has won 16 consecutive matches and lost only nine sets all season.
Junior Paige Powers leads the team with 325 kills, but a group of freshmen have been equally as impressive. Taylor Pecht leads the team with 711 assists, while Skylar Martin has a team-high 259 digs.
While Sequoyah has the best record so far this season, Etowah boasts the best player.
Savannah Bray leads the state with 551 kills and is third with 542 digs, and she has helped lead Etowah (27-11) to a No. 3 ranking in Class AAAAAAA out of the ultra-competitive Region 4AAAAAAA, in which four teams are ranked in the top five in the state.
Thursday's match between Etowah and Sequoyah will likely decide the county champion. Sequoyah beat Etowah 25-21, 26-24 at the Sequoyah Classic earlier this season, and Edwards expects another good match.
“When we beat them in the Sequoyah Classic, it was the first time we beat them in a while, so I’m sure that will be motivation for them,” Edwards said. “They will be a good test, just like playing anyone in the county. I think everyone in our county is good enough to beat anyone else on any day.”
Cherokee may have something to say, however. The Lady Warriors (19-8), ranked No. 10 in Class AAAAAAA by Score Atlanta, took two sets from Sequoyah in a match earlier this season.
River Ridge (23-12), which is fourth in Region 6AAAAAA, is led by senior Abby Infante who leads the region with a .354 attack percentage and has posted a team-high 212 kills.
Creekview (11-18) will begin the tournament Thursday against Etowah, while Woodstock (12-17) will begin the tournament Thursday against River Ridge.