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First volleyball regional berth on line between TRM-W.S. Neal

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Either the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers or W.S. Neal Lady Blue Eagles volleyball programs will make school history next week when they qualify for their first ever regional berth.
But which one?
While actually both schools will have an opportunity to grab the top two qualifying spots in the Class 3A Area 1 Tournament next Monday at Clarke County, the host Lady Bulldogs are huge favorites to grab one of the regional berths.
Clarke County owns two straight set wins over W.S. Neal and another straight set victory over T.R. Miller. The Lady Tigers will close out both their home and regular season Thursday against Clarke County.
Either T.R. Miller or W.S. Neal became guaranteed a regional berth when the Area 1 field was reduced from four teams to three when Sumter County was reassigned to Area 5 this season and was not replaced. That left just Clarke County, T.R. Miller and W.S. Neal to battle for two regional berths.
The Lady Tigers own two wins over the Lady Blue Eagles in the last six days in their first two meetings of the season. They could meet two more times next Monday with a regional berth at stake.
T.R. Miller coach Sharon Peacock is concerned about the law of averages.
"It's tough having to play Neal possibly four times in such a short amount of time, especially since there isn't a lot of difference between us," Peacock said after her team's win over W.S. Neal last Thursday.
Even though his team has lost twice to T.R. Miller, W.S. Neal coach Kraig Rittenhouse feels his team has a chance to advance if his team serves well.
"If we serve well, we can beat Miller. We've been playing well enough in the other phases to win, but our serves have killed us. Our top four servers have been in a slump recently. If they can perform like they are capable, we could get that regional berth. If we would be fortunate to get that far, we wouldn't have anything to lose," Rittenhouse said.
While the immediate focus is on the Area Tournament, here is a sneak peek ahead. Area 1 is paired up against Area 2, which contains Barbour County, Dale County, Headland and Pike County. The Area 1 champ will play the Area 2 runner-up in the opening round of regional play and vice versa.
"I don't know anything about any of those schools, but it would be nice to have the opportunity to play them at the regional. Regardless of how we would fare, I think the regional tournament is something our program needs to experience," Peacock said.
Areas 3 and 4 will also
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feed into this regional. Area 3 contains Montgomery Catholic, LAMP and Montgomery Academy. Area 4 has Alabama Christian, Dadeville and Holtville.
The winner of Area 4 is expected to be the regional host.
The Area Tournament pairings will be announced later this week although play is scheduled to start next Monday at 2 p.m.