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Panthers one win away from Elite 8

By Stephen Dawkins

Jemison will face a familiar foe Thursday, and the Panthers hope they’re better suited for the challenge this time.

Just like last year, Andalusia will visit Jemison Thursday for the sub-state round of the volleyball playoffs.

JHS hopes to advance to the Elite 8 state tournament this year based on an increased presence in the middle of the court, which coach Leighsa Robinson hopes will combat Andalusia’s hitters.

Senior middle blocker Kortney Robinson didn’t play last year and sophomore middle blocker Shelby Griffin is coming off an injury earlier in the season, but both have played their best volleyball recently.

“We’re bigger on the net than we were last year,” Leighsa Robinson said. “Our ability to block is a little bit better. I think we’re hitting the ball better than we were last year.

“We lost a lot of leadership last year and I was really worried, but our seniors, the second half of the season have really stepped up.”

Evidence can be found in Jemison’s regional championship (the Panthers finished second last season).

“I think this year we played very consistent,” Robinson said. “It was just a total team effort. If we hadn’t done that, then I think Calera would have took first. We stayed focused throughout the day, and that was a big turnaround for us.”

But the real test will be whether the Panthers (31-11) can win Thursday. The best-of-five match begins at 4 p.m. at Alton Cobb Gymnasium.

“From here on out, there’s no such thing as an easy win,” Robinson said.