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Jonesboro advances to first Elite Eight with sweep of Evans

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

Before Tuesday's Class AAAA second round volleyball game against visiting Evans, Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman had reason to worry.

The coach wasn't as concerned about Evans as he was about his team. Two of his best players were sick as the Lady Cardinals prepared to play.

Moments after the game, Maehlman and his team was definitely in a better mood as the Lady Cardinals swept the best-of-five series to advance to their first Elite Eight appearance in school history.

Jonesboro defeated Evans 25-17, 26-24 and 25-20 before a loud crowd at home.

"It was definitely crazy around here before the game," Maehlman said. "We had two players sick, but our team pulled through. It says a lot about our kids."

Outside hitter Kayla Dowdell and Jennifer Evans both played, despite being sick before the game.

Afterwards, the two seniors were all smiles as they joined in the team's celebration.

"This is certainly an awesome feeling to be a part of something like this," Evans said. "I'm going through a whole bunch of emotions right now."

Said Dowdell, who had to leave the court a couple of times during warm-ups: "We have done something no other volleyball team in our school history has done. We wanted to do this for coach Maehlman. We put him above us. This is just a great feeling."

Maehlman said the two seniors showed a lot of heart and character in playing despite their illness.

"This says a lot about our kids. We were in this hot gym, and they didn't think twice about it. They fought through it."

Jonesboro cruised to a first set win before Evans put up a fight in the next two. In the final set, Evans led 5-0 before Maehlman called a timeout to get the team refocused.

The Lady Cardinals took the lead for good at 15-14, and went on to finish off their visitors.

"After that first game, we lost some of our momemtum," Maehlman said. "We had about 11 to 12 unforced errors. I just told the girls that we were better than this."

Jonesboro has now won 12 straight matches with its last loss coming on Sept. 28 to Forest Park. In their last 16 matches, the Lady Cardinals have only lost twice.

At the beginning of the season, Maehlman had to replace fives seniors on this year's squad.

"We had some girls to step up," he said. "We are starting to click at the right time. It is all about playing your best at the right time in the season."