By Brian Howard
The Jonesboro High School volleyball team is getting use to being the top dog in Clayton County.
The Lady Cardinals captured their fourth straight Clayton County high school volleyball championship Saturday, beating Morrow, 2-1, in the finals.
Jonesboro, which has opened the season with 20-straight wins, began the tournament with a 25-6, 25-7 victory over Forest Park, then beat Lovejoy in the semifinals, 25-17, 25-15. However, the finals weren't a breeze for the Lady Cardinals.
"When you beat someone 25-6, 25-7, you're not making a lot of mental errors, and you're playing well" Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman said. "Against Lovejoy, we started to go back to our little funk, where we weren't talking as much. This last game against Morrow, the first game we played decent. Then second, we played awful and just went into our shell. The third game wasn't close.
"When we communicate and we're aggressive and we're intense, that is the way the score (of the third game) should be. When we don't (play that way), anyone can play with us."
Jonesboro sophomore Jeune Hypolite earned the tournament's Most Valuable Player award.
"She is an incredible athlete," Maehlman said. "She is our team leader, our captain. She does everything on the floor well and there's nothing she doesn't do well."
Morrow reached the finals by beating North Clayton, 25-13, 25-10, then defeated Riverdale, 25-19, 25-19.
Lady Mustangs coach Tameka King said she was pleased with her teams performance.
"The girls have worked really hard," King said. "They've been working hard on their defenses and trying new defenses. They've been doing a good job executing."
Morrow opened the first game with a 5-1 lead, but Jonesboro rallied to tie the game at 5 after a Shanice Smith kill. The two teams traded points until the Lady Cardinals broke a 10-all tie with an 8-1 run after a Jessica Hill kill, giving Jonesboro a 18-11 advantage.
The Lady Mustangs cut the deficit to 18-17, before Maehlman called a timeout.
After the timeout, the Lady Cardinals used a 7-3 run to take the first game, 25-20.
"I told the team after the first game that it's not a skill game," King said. "Skill for skill, I think we can match up. However, it's a mind game. It was all about strategy."
After Jonesboro opened with two straight points to start the second game, Morrow used a 12-5 run to take a 12-7 lead. Despite having a seven-point lead (14-7), the Lady Cardinals rallied, taking a 20-16 lead, before Jordan Greenleaf's kill gave the Lady Mustangs their 17th point.
Morrow took a 21-20 lead, prompting Maehlman to call a timeout, but to no avail as the Lady Mustangs took the second game, 25-23, forcing a deciding game.
Jonesboro controlled the third game, jumping out to a 9-2 lead after a Hill kill down the left line. Morrow trimmed the lead to seven, 13-6, but couldn't get any closer, losing 25-11.
Also in the first round, Lovejoy beat Mt. Zion, 26-24, 25-20. According to Lady Bulldogs coach Dunham McAllister, in the first game, Mt. Zion trailed 20-10, before La'Kristie Bussey had 10 service points to tie the game.
"I thought the team played well," McAllister said.
Riverdale beat Mundy's Mill in three games in the other opening-round game. Scores from that game were unavailable.