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Thursday May 26th, 2016 8:27PM

Area softball and volleyball teams open playoffs with plenty of confidence

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
The generally-accepted theory is that No. 4 seeds are, often, first round playoff fodder.

Don't try telling that to North Hall volleyball.

The Lady Trojans enter the Class AAA bracket with both confidence and optimism -- and with good reason: They have been tested by the best.

"The No. 4 seed from (Area 5-AAA) is comparable to a lot of one and two seeds from other areas," Hughes said. "For us that four is just a number."

After battling into the postseason from a league that includes defending state champ Blessed Trinity and state runner-up St. Pius, as well as No. 3 seed -- which reached the Class AAA "Elite Eight" last season -- North Hall won't be intimidated by anything it sees in the first round, including Area 4-AAA champ Sonoraville.

"We know they're a great team, but we feel like we're prepared for state," Hughes said. "And we're going to focus on playing our own game."

It is a sentiment shared by a number of area programs this week -- and not just four seeds and not just in volleyball. The state softball playoffs will also get underway, and teams like East Hall -- the No. 2 seed from Region 7-AAA -- enter the tournament knowing they won't face any tests tougher than the one region foe Buford presented during the regular season and in the 7-AAA title game.

Lady Vikings coach Jenny Crow believes that fact provides her team with a tremendous psychological edge.

"It helps tremendously," Crow said of having faced the six-time defending state champ Buford. "Looking back now we know we can play with anyone."

East Hall already showed it can excel in 7-AAA, finishing as the No. 2 seed after falling to the Lady Wolves in the region tournament finale. Now East Hall hopes to show the rest of the state it can continue its ascent after reaching the playoffs for the first time in Crow's five years at the helm.

"We want to continue to take advantage of the opportunities we have," Crow said. "The girls have achieved plenty of goals so far, and the goal now is to win two games this week."

The Lady Vikings will play host to Cartersville in a doubleheader, beginning at 5 p.m. today in Rabbittown -- one of eight area softball teams to make it into the state playoffs. And, as last postseason showed, there is plenty of talent in northeast Georgia to make a deep playoff run.

Beyond Buford's championship(s) run, Lumpkin County and Jackson County also made it to the state championship tournament in Columbus. And both the Lady Indians and Lady Panthers are back in the postseason this season, in Classes AAAA and AAA, respectively. In fact fourth-seeded Lumpkin faces a playoff rematch with Marist in the first round after dumping Marist out of the tournament in 2012 second round.

Jefferson and Union County, in Class AA, also made it back into the bracket -- as did Fannin County and Banks County from Region 7-AAA. Three 7-AAA representatives advanced to the second round of last year's postseason, and all four will expect big things again in 2013.

The area's volleyball teams may not include a defending state champ, but there were plenty of victories for northeast Georgia's programs in 2012, and they too will expect big things over the next two days.

Three of the four Area 5-AAA teams made it through last season's opening round, and the fourth seed, East Hall, fell in three sets.

In Class AA, Rabun County, is also back in the playoffs after reaching the second round in 2012, while third seeded Jefferson will look to make the most of a strong team to advance.

Meanwhile, Chestatee will host a first round match at 6 p.m. Wednesday, taking on Jonesboro in Gainesville after taking the No. 2 seed from Region 8-AAAA.

And in Class AAAAA, Gainesville faces a rematch of last year's second round battle with Starr's Mill, which the Lady Red Elephants lost in three sets.


AREA SOFTBALL TEAMS FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF MATCH-UPS
Seeding in parentheses

Class AAAA
(4) Lumpkin County at (1) Marist

Class AAA
(4) Sonoraville at (1) Buford
(3) Cartersville at (2) East Hall
(3) Banks County at (2) North Murray
(4) Fannin County at (1) Ringgold
(3) Blessed Trinity at (2) Jackson County

Class AA
(3) Westminster at (2) Jefferson
(3) Union County at (2) Lovett


AREA VOLLEYBALL TEAMS FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF MATCH-UPS
Seeding in parentheses

Class AAAAA
(3) Gainesville at (2) Starr's Mill

Class AAAA
(3) Jonesboro at (2) Chestatee

Class AAA
(3) Buford at (2) Cartersville
(4) North Hall at (1) Sonoraville

Class AA
(3) Jefferson at (2) Toombs County
(4) Rabun County at (1) St. Vincent's (Savannah)

Class A
(3) Lakeview at (2) Calvary Baptist
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