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Area teams grab spots in preseason rankings

Four teams from the Southern Crescent enter the season ranked in recent released volleyball and softball polls.

In the PrepCountry.comPreseason Softball Coaches Poll, three teams from the area start the season considered among the best in the state. Strong Rock, which is entering its second season in the Georgia High School Association, is ranked No. 7 in Class A.

In AAAA, Union Grove is No. 2 with county and Region 3-AAAA rival Ola tabbed at the seventh spot.

In the coaches' volleyball poll, Eagle's Landing Christian is the lone team from the area in the rankings. The Chargers are ranked No. 5 in the Class A/AA poll.

Strong Rock returns only two starters from last season's team that finished with a 21-13 record. The Patriots' two returning starters are Katie Shultes and Katie Jo Goodwin. Shultes is the team's top pitcher. Last season, she had 250 strikeouts.

Union Grove reached the quarterfinals last season, and with six returning starters, including standout pitcher Megan Betsa, the Wolverines could challenge for the Region 3-AAAA title.

Last season, Betsa had 397 strikeouts and an impressive 0.77 ERA. The Wolverines are an experienced group, which finished with a 32-11 record last season.

"These girls take a lot of pride in their craft," coach Rod Pipkin said. "I think whoever wins our region will have a good shot at winning state."

Jones County, which is a member of Region 3-AAAA, is the defending state champion. The Greyhounds enter the season ranked No. 4 in the coaches poll. Ola returns five starters from a 22-10 team to contend with them.

The ELCA volleyball team is led Mara Green, who has committed to sign with Florida State. ELCA enters the season ranked No. 5 in the preseason coaches' poll.