(Trevor Tegley / CCN Contributing Editor)
The winner advances to play top-seeded Alpena later that day at 3 p.m., while the loser goes home. The top three teams from the district tournament advance to state.
"You have to win three matches to go to state," Green Forest coach Trista Killingsworth said. "Now we play Cotter. And they definitely have home-court advantage."
But the Lady Warriors don't have the psyche advantage, having suffered two losses to Green Forest during the regular season. The Lady Tigers beat Cotter in straight sets during a conference match on Aug. 28 then took a four-set win from the Lady Warriors on Sept. 21, dropping only one set along the way.
"But that wasn't Saturday, October, 20, at noon," Killingsworth said. "So, that really means nothing. I know they have improved. I have seen them play. They have some strong hitters, a lot of heart and are going to hustle after every ball."
That's the same hustle the Lady Tigers showed against Marshall on Thursday as players were diving after balls and making saves when the points appeared to be lost. Thursday night's win put Green Forest 2-1 on the week after a win over Flippin on Monday and a loss to conference front-runner Alpena on Tuesday.
"Even in the loss to Alpena there were several saves like the one you saw tonight," Killingsworth noted. "So, my kids have a lot of heart as well. Play the next point. They hear it all the time. I feel like that's one of the things that will help get us out of that serve receive rut we tend to get in."
Green Forest served well against Marshall with junior Keylen Bell belting out eight aces, followed by six from sophomore Payton Watson. Bell added 10 digs while Watson was credited with 18. Junior libero Kelsey Deckard also had 18 digs while junior Anna Blach and senior Megan Newberry had 13 each.
Watson led the squad with six kills while Blach chipped in with four.
Alpena took the top seed in the 10-team conference, followed by Bergman, Valley Springs and Flippin rounding out the top four. The conference is split into two divisions and each team within the division plays each other twice while squaring off against cross-division teams once. Green Forest was in the tougher of the divisions, something Killingsworth said should help as the tournament continues.
"Each side plays each side in your division twice," she said. "I think we are in the tougher side but that put us in a good place in the bracket. If we can just focus on point, point, point, game, game, game, set, set, set, match, match and match."
Killingsworth said the key to reaching the state tournament was serve receive and passing, something she has harped on all year.
"We did struggle with it," she said. "But we went to a tournament in Hollister last week and really got pounded on hitting. I feel like that improved our passing. It's not perfect...but I feel like we have improved on our passing."