Photo by Brian Paglia / Woodland volleyball coach Gerri Wright (far left) and sophomores Savannah Caudle (7) and Bria Rivers (6) celebrate after defeating No. 8-ranked Jonesboro at home Tuesday in an Area 4-AAAA match.
STOCKBRIDGE — Jonesboro volleyball was flying around the court, throwing technique and fundamentals aside to keep the ball in the air, the point alive and the outcome of the match in the balance.
The Lady Cardinals arrived at Woodland on Tuesday a collection of athletes ranked No. 8 in Class AAAA and still trying to find out how good they could be.
As bad as the three-game loss to Mount Zion on Monday?
Or as good as the team that pushed undefeated No. 4-ranked Woodland to the brink in a compelling 25-18, 19-25, 25-19 Lady Wolfpack victory in an Area 4-AAAA match?
Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman said the outcome seemed to be connected.
“I think [the Mount Zion loss] was an eye-opener,” Maehlman said, “because I really think [Tuesday] was the best we’ve played. It’s the first time we’ve seen intensity from them. Like wanting to win.”
Indeed, Jonesboro (11-2, 3-1) had all the momentum after seizing the second game with a dominant run to close it out. The Lady Cardinals maintained it to start the third game, getting out to a 14-10 lead that prompted Woodland coach Gerri Wright to call a timeout.
Then Jonesboro’s biggest weakness — inexperience — began to show. Errant kills, poor passes and defensive plays multiplied as Woodland (18-0, 4-0) gradually came back.
“That’s the biggest thing with us,” Maehlman said. “New team, a lot of new players. ... They’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”
Soon the game was tied at 16 all. Woodland finished out on a 9-3 run to seal the match, take a one-game lead for first place in the area standings and remain undefeated.
“It feels great,” Woodland setter Tierra Gardner said. “We know that since we’re the top team everybody wants to beat us. We just play hard every game.”
Every game, that is, except the second.
It’s a phenomenon that’s developed this season and one Wright has yet to figure out. Woodland has lost the second game in four straight matches counting the Lady Wolfpack’s 25-13, 18-25, 25-12 victory over Riverdale (10-3, 2-2) later Tuesday.
But every time, Woodland has responded.
“It doesn’t seem to affect them,” Wright said. “I don’t know [why]. We come out ready to play in the first game, flat for the second game and then they come out rarin’ to go in that third game.
“It’s happened a couple of times. I don’t know why, but I’d like to know, because I’d like to put an end to it.”
So would the Lady Wolfpack, but they’re just as confounded as their coach.
“Nobody knows why,” Gardner said. “I just think we need to communicate more. We have good team chemsitry, but sometimes we just lose it for a minute.”
Woodland now knows it can’t afford that, not after getting a look at the rest of its area competition.
Jonesboro and Riverdale made an impression on the Lady Wolfpack on Tuesday, one Wright said they won’t forget.
“I can tell in the area [tournament] we’re going to have to really step it up,” Wright said.