For some highly-touted area volleyball teams, the season kicks off Saturday at the Central DeWitt tournament.
Clinton will get its first taste of competition this season when play kicks off at 8:30 a.m.
“It’s a great tournament for us,” Clinton coach Mark Massey said. “DeWitt and Maquoketa are very solid teams. There’s a lot of good, well-coached teams, but we really respect Maquoketa and DeWitt. They’re both highly rated in 4A. We’re rated in 5A. It’s a good opportunity for us to play some tough teams, without it being a conference match.”
Clinton is ranked seventh in Class 5A in the preseason rankings. Maquoketa, coming off a berth in the state tournament, is No. 6 in Class 4A and the host Sabers are No. 10 in 4A.
“There’s some people who like to say, ‘It doesn’t mean anything and we don’t care about rankings,” Massey said. “But it’s always nice to be ranked. Somebody has processed the teams in the state and has the respect and regard for your program to rank it. I think our kids are smart enough to know that it’s more likely you’re going to get somebody’s best shot. I think it’s a positive because the kids get excited. I think it’s a source of pride for families and communities.”
Preston is also hosting a tournament Saturday with two ranked local team. Marquette Catholic is No. 6 in Class 1A, while the host Trojans are ranked 14th.
Massey said this tournament was a good chance to see where the River Queens stacked up and what might need improving before starting Mississippi Athletic Conference matches next Tuesday.
“We’re trying to figure out where we are in this rotation, what are our strengths, what still needs a little bit of work,” Massey said. “Just like a football team in the fall thinks, ‘Doggone, we’ve seen enough of each in practice.’ We’re excited to play somebody else. Until you have a match, sometimes you’re guessing yourself or sometimes you might know it, but the kids don’t believe you. It’s a good chance to get refocused and ready for the conference season.”
There will be some time, though not much, for any needed last-minute adjustments.
“I don’t think there’s going to be anything that’s totally broken,” Massey said. “It’s usually just a case of tweaking or fine-tuning. ... For us, it’s trying to stay close to the fundamentals and executing those. Then we’ll give ourselves a chance to win.”
Maquoketa was the only local team to make the state tournament last year and six of their seven starters return from last season, along with a starter from 2010, who missed last season because of injury.
Central DeWitt, which beat Clinton both times they played last season, returns an experienced lineup especially heavy on juniors. Camanche is the only local team playing in this tournament that has already played a game. The Indians, who return their top four hitters and top setter from a season ago, won their season opener Thursday.
Massey said in some ways staying healthy would make the season-opening tournament a success, but there was some other criteria on which to judge, as well.
“I looked at the (MAC) scrimmage last week and there were a couple of things that we didn’t do as well in the scrimmage as we did in practice,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Geez, if that’s the worst thing that happens, we’re in good shape.’ Obviously the more matches you win, the better you feel in that regard. If your personnel selection, rotation selection, the way your team and system is designed, if it seems like that’s working and there’s good execution, then I feel like you can take some success away.”