By Doug Gorman
Until Saturday afternoon's state sectional at Henry County High School, the Jonesboro volleyball team hadn't experienced losing this season.
Then they ran into Etowah High School, the state's No.-4 ranked team in the Class AAAA coaches' poll.
The Lady Eagles spoiled Jonesboro's state title hopes by beating the Lady Cardinals twice, including in a three-game sweep during the finals in the best-of-five match.
Jonesboro has gone undefeated in the regular season for two straight years only to lose at the sectionals both years.
Etowah won the championship game 25-18, 27-25 and 25-13 to move on to the Class AAAA final four. Jonesboro also lost in a winners' bracket match to Etowah 25-20 and 25-22.
"I can't say enough about how proud I am of this team," said Jonesboro head coach Dan Maehlman. "We played Etowah hard, a point here and there and things could have been different."
In between losing to Etowah, the Lady Cardinals beat Northwest Whitfield twice 13-25, 25-17 and 25-14 and 25-17 and 25-15.
In the finals with Etowah, the two teams took turns exchanging the lead in game one. Early in the game, Etowah grabbed a 7-3 margin before Jonesboro came back to tie the game at 9-all.
Later in the game, Jonesboro took its first lead at 12-11. They extended it to 14-11, before Etowah stormed back to take the lead again, this time for good as the Lady Eagles outscored the Lady Cardinals 14-4.
In game No.-2 match, Jonesboro exploded to a 16-10 lead before Etowah hit a hot streak with seven straight points to retake the lead.
From there, fans were treated to the best action of the day as the two teams took turns with the momentum.
The game was tied at 20-20, 21-21 and 24-24 and 25-25. Etowah then scored the final two points.
In game three, Etowah took the lead for good when it broke an 11-11 tie and outscored Jonesboro 14-2.
"All of our matches were close except for the last game," said Maehlman. "I am happy with the way we played. Last year, we didn't perform very well here in the state tournament, but this year we held our own. I think we sent a message about Jonesboro volleyball."