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The hotbed looks to heat up again this weekend after area schools were handed a break due to weather. All eyes will be on Myrtle for the 2011 Union County Tournament with New Albany girls and Ingomar boys entering as the defending champions.
Working to keep his team sharp and in shape, NAHS coach John Stroud embraces the challenge of this year’s tournament and is preparing his team more mentally than physically in practice.
“We haven’t played as well as we did last year, and it’s the mental aspect of the game I’m working on more than anything,” he said.
“This is the time of year where you kind of cut down on practicing to keep everyone sharp because the season is starting to wear on you.”
“These girls are used to winning and have won the last two county tournament titles, so it’s sometimes a struggle to keep them focused and finish out games, but it’s going to be another good tournament, and we look forward to playing our county rivals again.”
Unable to practice this week, Ingomar coach Norris Ashley hopes the defending boys champs can pick up where they left off after winning two of three games last week.
“I hope not practicing doesn’t affect us too much and playing those three straight games last week should help,” he said.
“It will probably have it’s effect on us for the first quarter or so, but hopefully well be able to bounce back from it.”
Ingomar (6-13) vs. East Union (2-14) girls
The UCT will open with the Lady Falcons battling the Lady Urchins, a match-up that Ingomar holds an advantage in, winning the two other times they have played this season. The winner of this game will take on two-time defending champion New Albany (14-2) on Friday at 5 p.m.
East Union (6-10) vs. West Union (4-11) boys
The Urchins and Eagles are both looking for their first wins of the new year, as West Union fell to Hickory Flat last Friday and East Union dropped tough decisions against Thrasher and Ingomar. The winner will advance to take on top-seeded New Albany (15-2) at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Myrtle (16-4) vs. West Union (7-6) girls
Division rivals will square off, and both are looking to get back on the winning side as Myrtle lost a close game to New Albany last Friday and West Union fell to Hickory Flat.
The recent weather and lack of practice time will play a factor with each team, but Lady Hawk head coach Chris Greer hopes to shake the rust early in their game against the Lady Eagles.
“It could be challenging, and the fact that we haven’t practiced could play a factor early on,” he said. “We played very well against them [West Union] last time, but I’m afraid it will be tougher this time. We’re looking to put forth our best effort.”
The winner of the Thursday match will advance to Saturday’s championship at 6 p.m.
Myrtle (11-10) vs. Ingomar (9-10) boys
Always one of the best match-ups, the Hawks and Falcons are in unfamiliar territory playing each other in the put out game with the winner advancing to Saturday’s championship.
The Falcons opened 2011 winning two of three games last week, but the Hawks are still searching for their first win, as they dropped three games in three nights.
Head coach Jonathan Ashley is taking nothing but positives from the break this week, with his team returning to practice on Wednesday.
“We’ll all be in the same boat as far as practicing, but it was tough to lose the three games in a row becuase we put forth a lot of energy in each of the games,” he said.
“This time off has actually been good because it gives our team some time to rest and recuperate. If we had played Potts Camp on Tuesday, that would have only given us a couple days to get ready for the tournament, so I think this will be good for us.”
As far as their game against Ingomar, Ashley is only focusing on one aspect.
“We’re going to try to score more than them,” he said.
Check back throughout the weekend for updates from the 2011 UCT.