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Competitiveness defines county

Volleyball in Chilton County continues to progress.

The emergence of junior varsity programs has led to the improvement of varsity programs, a trend that will be on display during this year’s county tournament.

For the first time, a JV tournament will be held along with the varsity tournament. Then, fans could see the result of girls receiving instruction at a younger age as coaches expect one of the most competitive varsity tournaments ever.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for the younger kids to feel the excitement of a county tournament,” said Leighsa Robinson, coach of the Jemison team that will host both tournaments. “This is their postseason.”

The JV competition will begin at 3 p.m. today, then varsity play will start at 9 a.m. Saturday. Both tournaments will feature a round-robin format, so there will be six matches each day.

If two teams finish with the same record, the National Federation tie-break rule would determine the winner.

Isabella’s junior varsity team enters with a 9-1 record. The Mustangs’ loss came to Horseshoe Bend on the opening match of the season, but they avenged the setback later in the year.

Jemison’s JV team comes in with a 5-7 record, and Thorsby stands at 4-12. Chilton County’s record could not be determined by press time.

Capsules for each varsity team are below:

Chilton Co. (16-9)

The Tigers will play in their first county tournament under coach Misty Jones, but the team is experienced in tournament play because of the likes of seniors Demeshuia Browder, Tylita Harrell, Rocio McMullen, Xavi Parker and Vernice Trimble.

Isabella (23-5)

The Mustangs come into the tournament with the best overall record and a lofty ranking (No. 6 in Class 2A) but have battled consistency issues all season, coach Glen Graham said.

“We don’t know exactly what the answer is,” Graham said. “If we did, we would fix it.”

After opening the season with 11 consecutive wins, Isabella has lost two of its last four.

Jemison (17-8)

The Panthers have won four of the five county tournament championships since the event’s renewal (Isabella won in 2004), but this year’s edition could present their biggest challenge to date.

Only two starters return from the Jemison team that won last year are back, and the Panthers have battled the same consistency issues as Isabella this year, Robinson said.

“If we can stay focused, we’ll give a good turnout for the tournament,” she said.

Thorsby (6-24)

The Rebels could find out just how far they’ve come in coach Ginger Williams’ tenure. Thorsby improved its win total after posting only one last season but has yet to break through with a win over a county foe. The tournament would as good a time as any.

“The biggest goal we have is to go in and take care of our side of the net,” Williams said.

The Rebels could have some momentum coming off a five-game win at Vincent on Tuesday.