After a week and a half of tune-up matches, the North Pulaski Falcons begin 5A state volleyball competition next week in Alma. The number three seed from Central, North Pulaski faces Alma, the number two seed from the West, at noon Tuesday.
After clinching the third seed last Tuesday in a victory over Little Rock McClellan, the Falcons have prepared for the state tournament with matches against different types of teams. Last week, they beat St. Joseph in five thrilling sets, an experience they had yet to have this season.
"We beat them 28-26, 7-25, 29-27, etc., something silly like those with really, really long rallies," North Pulaski Coach Benjie Belton said. "We were short-handed and didn’t play well, but I told the girls we weren’t going to play patty cakes."
With the goal of only preparing for the state tournament, Belton used the last three regular-season matches for that purpose. Tonight, the Falcons meet Vilonia and will incorporate the package to be used against Alma as North Pulaski faces an element it hasn’t seen all year.
Alma focuses its game around 6-foot-2 senior middle blocker Brittany Griffin. The Falcons have yet to face a team with a player that tall. Because the Falcons don’t have that height, Belton is changing some things to counteract Griffin. Kiarra Evans, North Pulaski’s tallest player at 5-9, is going to challenge Griffin.
"We are going to put Evans up against her and then play defense behind her," Belton said. "They like to set her the ball above the net and let her spike it down. It wouldn’t make any sense to try and double block her because we don’t have anyone who can jump that high. We are changing our defense and alignment around."
The good thing for the Falcons is that Griffin is really the only weapon Alma has. Another strategy is to score as many points as possible when Griffin is on the bench. So service strategy is also coming into play.
"Other than her, I didn’t see anybody else very special," Belton said. "We are going to try and move the ball around and try and keep it from the tall girl and the setter. If we keep scoring points when she is on the bench, she’ll stay there. "
Although the season has been long and one that some of the players aren’t used to, the Falcons are excited and ready for state competition. The goal is to take one match at a time, make sure serves are in, hit consistently and see what might happen.