Can’t beat the Outback

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Win or no win — it’s going to take a trip to the Outback before the Andalusia Lady Bulldogs can come home from the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 4A Elite Eight state volleyball tournament this week in Pelham.

For every trip to the state tournament, the Lady Bulldogs make a special dinner trip to Outback Steakhouse.

For Andalusia seniors A.C. Riley, Ellie Pollock and Megan Pugh, the trip to the state tournament is nothing new.

Wednesday’s quarterfinal round against Jacksonville will signify Riley and Pollock’s third appearance, and Pugh’s second.

“We’re excited,” Riley said about going to state.

All three said if the team plays like it did against Jemison last week, then they can “beat anybody.”

“I think if we’re on our game, we can,” Pollock said. “Or at least that’s what I’ve told everybody.”

Last Thursday, the Lady Bulldogs beat Jemison 3-2 in the sub-state round, after trailing 2-0 early in the match; however, Jacksonville will not be an easy feat for the Lady Bulldogs. The Lady Golden Eagles sit at 43-10, whereas Andalusia is 18-9. Jacksonville won the state title back-to-back in Class 4A in 2007 and 2008.

AHS coach Angie Grimes said at practice Monday, the focus was on “defense.”

“It comes down to the same thing we’ve been focusing on — defense,” she said.

Andalusia’s quarterfinal match against Jacksonville is slated to start at 8 a.m. on Wednesday at the Pelham Civic Complex. The tournament is single elimination, and each match is the best-out-of-five series.

“You know everybody is good at this level,” Grimes said about Jacksonville.

The last time Andalusia played Jacksonville was in 2008.

The Lady Bulldogs’ trip to the state tournament in 2009 was cut short by defending champions Guntersville.

One factor that may be beneficial to the team is the loud atmosphere in the complex.

“We play better when we have a lot of crowds,” Pollock said. “Just like the Jemison guys pumped us up.”

At the sub-state round, 11 students painted their torsos to read “Go Panthers.” A volleyball was also included in the group.

“We hear everybody else, and we don’t hear the parents,” Pugh said.

Grimes said she keeps urging her players to tap into the “focus” they displayed last week.

“I told them all the time that’s the kind of level you want to get to and not back down,” she said. “When you play teams like this — everybody there is good.

“All these girls have played there before,” she said. “That, in itself, is a plus. They’re all excited about going.”

When asked what their preliminary goal is for this tournament, all three said to get past the quarterfinals.

“I just want to get past the first round because that’ll be the farthest we’ve gotten,” Pollock said. “I just want to win.”

And their food of choice at Outback Steakhouse?

“Macaroni,” Riley said.

“The most expensive thing on the menu,” Pollock said.

Riley is the daughter of Abb and Vicki Riley; Pollock is the daughter of Cindy and Bobby Pollock; and Pugh is the daughter of Ann and Mark Pugh.