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VOLLEYBALL NOTEBOOK: Enterprise leads Wiregrass programs

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With roughly three-fourths of the high school volleyball regular season in the books, the Enterprise Wildcats are showing their mettle as the Wiregrass’ best program.

Entering Thursday’s home match against Prattville, the Class 7A, No. 3 state ranked Wildcats, having amassed a 22-4 record, highlighted by a current 12-game winning streak with nine of the wins coming in the last week.

But the numbers go even further.

Jennifer Graham’s Wildcats have gone 22-1 against in-state competition, winning the last 21 after losing a three-set match to current 7A, No. 2 ranked Spain Park in the second match of the season. The other three losses have come at tournaments to teams from the state of Tennessee – Briarcrest Christian, Sigel and Cleveland.

In the 22 matches versus state teams (one was a forfeit from R.E. Lee), Enterprise has won 48 of 52 sets with only Auburn and Westminster Christian having been able to win one set against the 'Cats besides Spain Park. Westminster has been ranked No. 1 in Class 5A all season and Auburn has been knocking on the door of a top 10 ranking in 7A.

Overall, Enterprise has beaten 12 of 13 state ranked teams this year, falling only to Spain Park.

The Wildcats try to continue those trends this weekend when they travel to the 38-team HeffStrong Tournament in Hoover. They open play on Friday against Calera and Briarwood Christian, the latter ranked No. 6 in Class 6A. EHS finishes pool play on Saturday against Ramsay and Grissom.

In addition to Enterprise, two other Wiregrass programs are in Hoover for the top-heavy HeffStrong Tournament – Providence Christian and Houston Academy.

The tournament features 38 teams over eight pools with six pools featuring five teams and two with four teams. Nineteen of the 36 Alabama teams in the field are state ranked, including seven of the top 10 in Class 7A, six of the top 10 in Class 6A with three teams ranked No. 1 (McGill-Toolen, 7A; Trinity, 4A; Donoho, 2A). Seven other teams in the field are in the others nominated category, just outside the top 10.

The Eagles have a loaded pool with Class 7A, No. 2 Spain Park, Class 4A No. 1 Trinity and Class 3A No. 6 Ohatchee as their opponents.

The Raiders face Class 7A, No. 8 Hoover, James Clemens, Class 5A, No. 8 Guntersville and Collierville (Tenn.) in their pool.

Following pool play, the top two teams in each pool advance to the Gold Bracket in an effort to win the tournament title. The third and fourth-place teams from each pool move to the Silver Bracket.

The HeffStrong Tournament is named for Erin Heffner Ventress, a former two-time All-American at Alabama. Indiana native Ventress was an assistant coach at the University of Montevallo and Berry Middle School in Hoover who died of cancer in 2014. She was recognized as an SEC Legend in 2015.

Carroll tournament set: The Carroll Set-Off Tournament is set for Saturday with seven teams competing at tourney at the Ozark school.

The seven are Carroll, Rehobeth, Eufaula, Ariton, Slocomb, Samson and Pike County.

PCS, HA drop out of rankings: Both Providence Christian and Houston Academy dropped out of the state rankings this week. Both were ranked No. 9 last week. PCS fell out in Class 5A after a 3-4 week to drop to 13-13 on the season. Houston Academy, which went 6-2 during the week and is now 14-8 overall, dropped out of 3A and was replaced by Westbrook Christian, which went 3-0 for the week to improve to 20-2 on the season. Both local schools are now in the others nominated category.

Two others slide down: Two other Wiregrass teams dropped in the rankings, though they stayed in the poll. In Class 1A, Kinston, which went 1-5 in the week to drop to 9-12 on the season, fell two spots to No. 9. In AISA, Lakeside (1-1 in week) slide a spot to No. 7 as unbeaten Patrician Academy jumped the Chiefs.

Others stay same: Four other Wiregrass teams remained the same in the latest poll – Enterprise at No. 3 in Class 7A, Geneva at No. 9 in Class 4A, G.W. Long at No. 6 in Class 2A and Ariton at No. 9 in Class 2A.

In addition to Providence Christian and Houston Academy, Rehobeth was also in the others nominated category.

Clinched areas: Two areas involving Wiregrass teams have had the top spot clinched and both were claimed by a non-Dothan Eagle coverage team.

Beauregard (4-0) won the three-team Class 5A, Area 3 crown on Wednesday with a win over Eufaula (2-2), which finished second ahead of Valley (0-4).

In Class 3A, Area 3, Straughn (5-1) has captured the area regular-season title with New Brockton (3-2, one area game left) and Opp (2-2 with two left) still battling for second. Pike County (0-5) is last.

As a result, Beauregard and Straughn will host the area postseason tournament in a few weeks.

On doorstep of clinching: Houston Academy entered Thursday’s play a win away from clinching Class 3A, Area 2 and the host spot for the area postseason tournament. The Raiders (4-0 in area) could do that on Thursday with a win over Ashford (2-2). A loss and the Raiders still can clinch with a win on Tuesday against Northside Methodist (2-2).

Providence Christian (3-0) can clinch Class 5A, Area 3 with a win Monday over Rehobeth (3-1). A Rehobeth victory, though, and the remaining area games still are in play (PCS versus Headland and Carroll; Rehobeth versus Carroll) next Tuesday and Thursday.

Also close to a clinch: Enterprise (4-0, four area games left) can clinch five-team Class 7A, Area 3 with a win over Prattville Thursday and at Dothan Tuesday before its last two games with Jeff Davis. A loss, particularly to Dothan (4-1), could open the door.

Winner in driver’s seat: G.W. Long and Ariton were playing Thursday with the winner likely taking the Class 2A, Area 4 title. Though both still have area games left next week and could still mathematically (though very unlikely) be tied for a top spot, they are prohibitive favorites in those remaining area games against two-win Abbeville or winless Barbour County.

Other area leaders: Prior to Thursday’s action, three other coverage teams are currently lead their area, but still had some work to do to win area regular-season titles.

Geneva is 4-0 in Class 4A, Area 3 with two matches left, but those are against Andalusia (2-1, three matches left) and Slocomb (1-1, four matches left), who are still in the hunt.

Samson leads 2A, Area 2 with a 3-0 record with Wicksburg 2-1, Cottonwood 1-2 and Geneva County 0-3 behind the Tigers. All four teams have three area games left, including Thursday matches.

Kinston is on top of Class 1A, Area 1 with a 3-0 mark, but also has three left to play (Elba, Houston County and Florala).

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