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Jonesboro bonding on and off court

Throughout the course of the season, the Jonesboro volleyball team has started to bond and jell as one unit, according to the seniors on the squad. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Throughout the course of the season, the Jonesboro volleyball team has started to bond and jell as one unit, according to the seniors on the squad. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

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Vicky Sutton, front, and Michaelle Smith are two of the three returning starters from last season’s squad. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

JONESBORO — It was during the point of the season when Jonesboro was dealing with some adversity that the volleyball team began to come together.

The senior members of the team had to sit out a match earlier this year. The seniors didn’t participate in an earlier Area 4-AAAA match to Woodland, which the team lost.

After returning to the team, they began playing a larger role, especially in leadership.

“That was definitely the turning point in our season,” said senior Kendall Thomas.

“After that disappointing loss, we came together as a team,” Canelle Richardson said.

After winning the silver bracket in the 30-team Harley Davidson Spikefest in Conyers over the weekend, the Cardinals are sporting a 14-4 record. During the two-day tournament, Jonesboro lost a rematch with Woodland and to Harris County, a Class AAAAA team.

The Cardinals then defeated Heritage-Conyers, Lakeside-DeKalb and South Effingham to win their bracket championship on Saturday.

Now, Jonesboro turns its attention to the rest of the season, including this weekend’s Clayton County championship, which it will host.

And as the team enters the second half of the season, players and coaches agree that they are playing more as a group. They point to the senior suspension as the key to the turn around.

Jonesboro started the season winning its first four matches before hitting a three-match losing streak, which included losses to Mount Zion, Lovejoy and Woodland.

“I think the seniors are playing a bigger role now,” Thomas said. “We have meshed as a team. We are like a brand new team now.”

Senior Cerenyti Rhodes agreed.

“We have talked about the seniors leading this team,” she said. “We have stepped up at practice to help bring this team together. We do a lot of stuff off the court, and hang out together.”

Coming into the season, Cardinals coach Dan Maehlman figured it would take time for the team to find its identity with only three returning starters. Returning from last season’s team, which advanced to the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs, were sophomore Vicky Sutton, junior Michaelle Smith and Thomas.

“We are getting a lot better,” Maehlman said. “I’m happy at the direction that the team is moving in. The last few matches, we have played well at times. The girls are finding a way to win.”

Smith says the team chemistry has been good.

“We are starting to bond and communicate more,” she said. “The seniors came back from the Woodland game, and they came back strong. We are starting to follow their lead.”