Ridaught: Area volleyball teams ready for tourney play

Volleyball on court with dark background
Gary MilnerviaCanva

This weekend there are several high school volleyball tournaments involving more than 15 teams in the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area.

Eastside, Chiefland, Trenton, P.K. Yonge, Columbia (Lake City), and host Bell will be participating at the Lady Bulldog Invitational.

The tournament will be a best-of-three format and will feature a total of eight teams (Pool A & Pool B).

Tiebreakers for pool play starts with the best record in pool play. If teams are tied then head-to-head competition would be next, followed by sets won, points allowed, or the fifth tiebreaker would be a coin toss.

The host Bulldogs narrowly missed the postseason last year but they are currently sixth overall in Class 1A in the first FHSAA girls volleyball rankings that were released this past Tuesday.

2023 Bell High School volleyball team
Courtesy Bell High School volleyball The 2023 Bell High School volleyball team.

Bell (5-3) is coming off of two five-set losses this week to Chiefland and Union County (Lake Butler), which advanced to last year’s 1A state semifinals.

“We came out both games this week flat and didn’t seem to have any energy for some reason,” said Bell coach Drue Barry. “Not taking anything away from Chiefland or Union but I think both of those were winnable games. We beat Chiefland a couple weeks ago 3-1. I’m proud of the team for not giving up and battling back but they have to find ways to finish.”

Their other loss was also in five sets against Newberry, which made the 1A playoffs last year.

Barry said a win against state semifinalist Williston proved his team can compete against anyone.

The Bulldogs lost the first set to the Red Devils, 25-11, in the season opener on Aug. 21, but they rallied to win in five.

“They are probably the strongest team on our schedule, and we beat them,” Barry said. “We also have regional wins (sweeps) against Aucilla Christian and Hilliard. I wanted to make sure we played them with what happened last year with the playoff situation. When we play our game, we can beat anyone on our schedule.”

Newberry's Chloe Jones had 11 kills for the Panthers against Valdosta (GA) on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Newberry’s Chloe Jones had 11 kills for the Panthers against Valdosta (GA) on Thursday.

Hilliard edged Bell in last year’s final rankings so the sweep of the Flashes was a little payback for 2022.

Bell has hosted the Lady Bulldog Invitational for “over 10 years,” according to Barry.

“It’s a lot of work to make sure everything is set and ready but once we start playing it goes great,” he said. “It’s always a fun and competitive event.”

Other teams participating in the tournament include Class 3A schools Taylor County (Perry) and Crescent City.

The action gets underway today at 5 p.m. as Eastside, winners of three in a row, faces Taylor County and Chiefland takes on Trenton.

“We lost to Columbia last year in the championship game,” Barry said. “I believe there will be a lot of very close games and it will be a battle to see who plays in the championship. I always have the expectation that Bell will be it. Chiefland has a strong team this year and they have a very dynamic hitter in Claire Horne. Columbia won the LBI last year so I know Trudy will have them ready to play again this year.”

Meanwhile, Newberry (5-6) is one of several teams that will be heading to Jacksonville for tournament play.

The Class 1A Panthers, who lost at home to Class 7A Valdosta (GA) on Thursday night, will play in the Jacksonville Juniors Volleyball Association (JJVA) River City Classic.

They will face 1A state semifinalist Union County today at 5:30 p.m. in their opening game.

“We don’t play them this year so it will be a good opportunity to go over there and play another good coached team,” Rone said. “Everything for us about our district (1A-District 7). We want to win our district this year. That’s our ultimate goal. That’s the only goal we set for ourselves is to be in a position to play for the championship and try to win it this year.”

It’s a tough schedule overall this season for Newberry, which has played 2A regional finalist Oak Hall, 1A state semifinalist Williston, 1A regional semifinalist Blountstown, and current 1A No. 1 Branford (10-0).

“We schedule that way because we want to be ready when it comes time for playoffs,” Rone said. “We have seen teams that are a little better than us, and can we play with them, but every now and then you might upset one.”

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Oak Hall's Cassidy McDonald with a set against Williston on Tuesday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Oak Hall’s Cassidy McDonald with a set against Williston on Tuesday.

Other area teams participating in the two-day event in Jacksonville include Williston, Newberry, Buchholz, Dixie County (Cross City), Suwannee (Live Oak), and Santa Fe (Alachua), which will look to bounce back from Wednesday’s loss at GHS.

Oak Hall, which were guests on “The Prep Zone” sports show this past Wednesday, is traveling to the Keswick Christian Varsity Tournament in St. Petersburg.

On Thursday, Largo went 2-0 in the first couple of rounds of Oak Hall’s pool, putting the Eagles (8-0) in a must-win game against the Packers at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. 

That will be followed by a match at 7:30 p.m. against 14-2 Delphi Academy of Clearwater and at 8:30 p.m. versus St. Pete Catholic.

“It really gives you a great opportunity to face some different styles, and talents and caliber of play,” said Oak Hall coach Perry McDonald. “I also feel if you’re trying to make a good run in the playoffs, it probably helps your MaxPreps algorithm exposure by getting a few more data points out there to show how you stack up versus teams from other areas in the state.”

It’s a busy weekend for volleyball. Here are the upcoming tournament schedules.

Friday, Sep. 15

4:30 p.m. – Oak Hall vs. Largo^
5 p.m. – Taylor County (Perry) vs. Eastside*
5 p.m. – Chiefland vs. Trenton*
5:30 p.m. – Newberry vs. Union County (Lake Butler)&
5:30 p.m. – Williston vs. Clay (Green Cove Springs), 5:30 p.m.&
6 p.m. – Newberry vs. Matanzas (Palm Coast)&
6 p.m. – Buchholz vs. Glynn Academy (Brunswick, GA)&
6:30 p.m. – Taylor County (Perry) vs. Crescent City*
6:30 p.m. – P.K. Yonge vs. Chiefland*
6:30 p.m. – Dixie County (Cross City) vs. Suwannee (Live Oak)&
5:30 p.m. – Oak Hall vs. Delphi Academy (Clearwater)^
7:30 p.m. – Suwannee (Live Oak) vs. TBA&
8 p.m. – P.K. Yonge vs. Columbia (Lake City)*
8 p.m. – Bell vs. Crescent City*
8 p.m. – Buchholz vs. Mandarin (Jacksonville)&
8 p.m. – Santa Fe (Alachua) vs. Lincoln (Tallahassee)&
8 p.m. – Williston vs. Belleview&
8:30 p.m. – Dixie County (Cross City) vs. Palatka&
8:30 p.m. – Oak Hall vs. St. Pete Catholic^
Branford, Keystone Heights vs. TBA at JJVA River City Classic in Jacksonville

*Lady Bulldog Invitational at Bell
&JJVA River City Classic in Jacksonville
^Keswick Christian Varsity Tournament

Saturday, Sep. 16

8:30 a.m. – Dixie County (Cross City) vs. Flagler Palm Coast&
10 a.m. – Bell vs. Eastside*
10 a.m. – Columbia (Lake City) vs. Trenton*
11:30 a.m. – Crescent City vs. Eastside*
11:30 a.m. – Columbia (Lake City) vs. Chiefland*
1 p.m. – Bell vs. Taylor County (Perry)
1 p.m. – P.K. Yonge vs. Trenton*
2:30 p.m. – Pool A #3 vs. Pool B #3
2:30 p.m. – Pool A #4 vs. Pool A #4
4 p.m. – Pool A #2 vs. Pool B #2 (3rd-place)*
4 p.m. – Pool A #1 vs. Pool B #1 (Championship)*
TBA – Newberry, Santa Fe (Alachua), Buchholz, Branford, Dixie County (Cross City), Williston, Keystone Heights, & Suwannee (Live Oak) at JJVA River City Classic in Jacksonville

*Lady Bulldog Invitational at Bell
&JJVA River City Classic in Jacksonville
^Keswick Christian Varsity Tournament

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Tim Knox

Newberry lost to Union County and Matanzas. Union lost to Matanzas beat Newberry. Tomorrow Union will play Williston at 1000 at JJVA.