Now, they want to make them even more memorable.
Both the Lady Phoenix and Lady Jackets open up region tournament play on Thursday as the No. 1 seed in each. Sonoraville is the top seed in the Area 5-AAA Tournament that plays their first round at Adairsville, while Calhoun hosts their first round on Thursday in the Area 5-AA Tournament. Both teams finished with undefeated records in area play.
“Our girls are as ready to play this tournament as I have ever seen a team,” said Sonoraville coach Trace Vaughn. “They still have a bad taste after falling short last year, and they are ready to replace that feeling with a championship. After two straight undefeated region regular seasons, I think it is certainly our time.”
Calhoun coach Randy Rice echoes those statements about his squad.
“We are very excited to start the tournament,” said Rice. “This is our first year as the No. 1 seed, and we are ready to get going.”
The tournament action will be the first matches in a while for both teams. Sonoraville hasn’t played since sweeping a tri-match at Rockmart on Sept. 27, and Calhoun will have had over a week off when tournament play starts after sweeping a tri-match at Coosa last Thursday.
Both coaches said the layoff shouldn’t hurt their teams too much.
“I expect we will be a bit rusty, having not played a match in two weeks, but I doubt it will take them long to be back in full swing,” said Vaughn. “(In practice), we have just been trying to sure up our weak spots and build a good level of intensity.”
“I hope it doesn’t affect us too much,” said Rice. “We’ve been adding a few wrinkles that we haven’t shown all year to give the girls something to look forward to. They’ve been working hard and are anxious to play.”
For the Lady Jackets, the tournament being played at home will be an extra incentive for their solid play in the area this season.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a home-court advantage, but our girls are really excited about playing there,” said Rice. “We’ve only played two home matches all year so we’ve played on the road almost the entire season. It will definitely add some excitement to be at home, and we hope a lot of people will show up to cheer the girls on.”
Both teams made the state playoffs last season but were defeated in the first round. However, as the No. 1 seeds, they both are looking to set themselves up nicely for a state playoff run.
Both Rice and Vaughn have high expectations for how their teams will play in the tournament starting Thursday.
“The expectations have been there from Day 1 for us this season,” said Rice. “I expect us to continue to play strong volleyball. I’ve told my girls that we have to stay hungry and can’t slip up. So far they’ve responded well.”
Vaughn said the Lady Phoenix have been preparing for this tournament all season.
“We increased the number of tournaments in which we played this year, primarily to get a higher level of competition, but those also gave us great experience in how to handle the tournament format,” said Vaughn. “Hopefully, this will pay big dividends for our team. This is a special team, and my expectation are no less than making the final six in the State, but we will take it one step at a time. Regardless of the outcome, I am extremely proud of what these young ladies have accomplished.”
The Lady Phoenix are one win shy of tying their school record for wins in a single season. It has been a great season for Sonoraville, but Vaughn said an area championship is something his team wants extremely badly.
“Having had so many successes over the past several years, the one thing that has alluded us is a region tournament championship,” said Vaughn. “It is all our girls are thinking about right now, and it would be a significant milestone for our program and for Sonoraville High School. The first place team could have home court advantage for the first three rounds of the State Tournament, so it is huge in that regard also.”
The Lady Phoenix open region tournament play against Fannin County on Thursday at 5 p.m. Calhoun plays the winner of Coosa-Chattooga at 6:30 p.m.