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Jonesboro advances to state tournament

Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman says he wants to see his team serve and pass better in its first round playoff match at Chestatee today in Gainesville. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman says he wants to see his team serve and pass better in its first round playoff match at Chestatee today in Gainesville. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

JONESBORO — Just before Jonesboro started play in the Area 4-AAAA tournament last week, coach Dan Maehlman changed his team’s routine.

He scheduled a non area match against county rival Mount Zion as a sort of tune-up for the tournament.

Maehlman is not sure if the win over Mount Zion — its first in three matches this season — was a confidence boost for his squad, but he agreed it sure didn’t hurt.

“I don’t know if our girls think about the rivalry or stuff like that,” Maehlman said. “It was good playing someone like Mount Zion that is a decent team before you get into your area tournament.”

The Cardinals advanced through the area tournament and grabbed the No. 3 seed into today’s Class AAAA tournament. Jonesboro will travel to Gainesville to take on Chestatee in the first round.

It will be the 14th straight year that the Cardinals have advanced to the state playoffs. To reach the state meet, Jonesboro opened the area meet with a win over Stockbridge before suffering a defeat to host Woodland. The Cardinals rebounded to defeat Riverdale and Dutchtown before losing to eventual area champion Locust Grove.

Woodland is the No. 2 seed out of the area with Dutchtown taking the fourth seed.

“I’m real pleased that our team has a chance to play some more matches,” Maehlman said. “We didn’t particularly play well in the tournament with our serves and passing, but we have a chance to get better with that in the state tournament.”

Lovejoy was the only other team in the county to advance to the volleyball playoffs. The Wildcats are the No. 4 seed from Area 2-AAAAAA, and they travel to North Gwinnett for a match today. North Gwinnett placed three players on the all-area team in Alyssa Munlyn, Carson Nevels and Mekenzie Cronic.

The Chestatee match will be a best-of-five series, which starts at 6 p.m. The winner of today’s match advances to the second round on next week to take on the South Effingham and Alexander winner. South Effingham is the Area 2-AAAA champion while Alexander is the No. 4 seed from Area 4-AAAA.

In a tournament three weeks ago, Jonesboro defeated South Effingham is pool play on its way to the tournament championship.

“I’ve seen some of the ranked teams in the state, there are not any teams that are overpowering,” Maehlman said. “Of course when you get to the Elite Eight level, there is a big separation in the teams. We have a good chance to win, it just depends on how we play. If we play decent, I think we can do well. I like the best-of-five format, because it usually takes us a while to get warmed up.”

Chestatee is making its second appearance in the state tournament since the school opened. The War Eagles lost to Walnut Grove twice, including in the Area 8-AAAA championship match to grab the No. 2 spot out of the area.

“I was extremely proud of them,” Chestatee coach Julie Rushing told the Gainesville Times over the weekend. “They’ve worked extremely hard this year. Last year we went in as a No. 3 seed and this year we’re going in as a two seed. Each year they just keep building on what they’ve accomplished.”

Chestatee is led by middle hitter Melanie Smith, a 6-foot-2 senior.

“She has a very strong presence on the court,” Rushing told the Gainesville Times. “She stands out on the court physically, and she has a very competitive nature, but she is uplifting and pushes her teammates.”

Maehlman said that his middle hitter Michaelle Smith has played well throughout the tournament. He also praised setter Vickie Sutton and senior Kendall Thomas for helping the team advance.

“Several coaches have said that Michaelle is the best player in our area,” Maehlman said. “She has been huge for us.”