By Doug Gorman
Making it to the state tournament has become a tradition for the Jonesboro Lady Cardinals volleyball team.
Later this month, the Lady Cardinals will play in the event for the third straight year.
That's after playing Mt. Zion tonight for the Area 5-AAAA title. Both teams have earned a spot at volleyball's big dance, with the winner securing the No-1 seed out of the region.
Action begins at 5 p.m. at Jonesboro.
"The key for us is playing within ourselves," said Jonesboro head coach Dan Maehlman. "We can't worry about who we are playing and how we have done against them in the past."
Still, history has to be on the side of the Lady Cardinals as it has beaten the Lady Bulldogs in the regular season and already in the area tournament.
The Lady Cardinals are enjoying an amazing regular-season winning streak. The team has won every regular-season match over the last two seasons, giving them more than 60-straight wins.
With the success has come state recognition as the team made its first ever appearance in the state rankings this season.
"Some people may not want to give us the respect we deserve because they don't think we play really strong competition, but as (Boys basketball coach) Mac (Cain) told me, any time you win that many games in a row, you must be doing something right," Maehlman said.
Win or lose tonight in the area finals, Jonesboro enters the volleyball team with plenty of experience in the postseason.
"The nervousness is gone, because most of our players know what to expect," he said.
After Tuesday's practice, it was obvious members of the Lady Cardinals are confident about tonight's match and the upcoming state tournament.
"We know our potential and what it takes to win," said starting setter Kristina Larsen.
Jessica Martin, who is a newcomer to the Lady Cardinals varsity team, is excited to be a part of the team's quest for a region title and its third trip to the state tournament.
"Each day we practice a little bit harder," she said. "I feel really good about our chances."