The more things have changed, the more they've stayed the same for the Jonesboro volleyball team.
The Lady Hurricane graduated a handful of seniors from last season's Class 5A state championship team -- including two-time Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas Preps Volleyball Player of the Year Clara Parker -- but they haven't missed a beat.
In fact, they haven't missed much of anything lately.
Jonesboro won its 52nd consecutive match Tuesday when it knocked off 5A-East rival Nettleton 3-1 on the road. The streak is the second longest ever in state volleyball history behind the 63-match run that Crowley's Ridge put together from 1997-98. The tally also supplants the Lady Hurricane's own 51-match winning streak from 2001-02.
"Winning breeds winning," said Jonesboro Coach Craig Cummings, who led the Lady Hurricane to a 35-0 mark last season and the team's 14th state title. "This is almost a complete new crew out on the court for us. We've got just one starter back while a couple of others had played different roles. But they've filled in remarkably.
"On paper, they're not supposed to be where they are, but that's what I give credit to them for. They believe in one another, and they have each other's back. The team culture over the past four years has been tremendous."
Jonesboro (9-0, 7-0) has gone 131-16 since 2016 and picked up three state titles. The one year the Lady Hurricane didn't win, they lost in the 2017 championship match.
This season has been a pleasant surprise for Cummings. Despite senior captain Taylor Abernathy being the lone regular returning from 2019, Jonesboro has gone a full five sets just once this year. That match came against North Little Rock, where the Lady Hurricane won the first two sets before pulling out the victory in the fifth.
Two other senior captains, Rosalind Lutes and Maggie Orr, have flourished in their hitter and libero roles, respectively, Cummings said. Seniors Teagan Cox, Abby Johnson and Shelby Varner have added leadership, while junior Saraya Hewitt and sophomores Maddie Johnson and Anna Parker have been able to step up when needed. Junior Mollie McCoy, who missed nearly three months with a broken fibula, has returned to bolster the lineup.
"Everybody's equal," Cummings said. "No one person is more important than the other. It doesn't matter if you're a sophomore, junior or senior. Everybody is a 'Cane."
The Lady Hurricane aim for their 53rd in a row today against West Memphis.
WEST SIDE GREERS FERRY
Shooting for more
Don't expect the West Side Greers Ferry girls golf team to be satisfied with last year's accomplishments.
The Lady Eagles breezed to the Class 1A state title by 43 shots a year ago, and they've got their eyes set on a repeat.
"These girls have done a great job of not being content with last year's success," West Side Greers Ferry Coach Shane Davis said. "They have put in the time to get better and better and build on what they accomplished last year as a team. They really want that fifth state title."
West Side Greers Ferry rolled to a fourth crown last season behind all-state performers Kendra Harness and Kortnee Finch, who are both juniors, and Haley Gentry, a senior. That trio, along with junior Emma Johnson, have led the team's surge in 2020.
The Lady Eagles won the 1A-2 Conference title and are among the favorites to win at the state tournament next week, which will be hosted by Kirby High School at the Glenwood Country Club in Glenwood.
"All four are very competitive and push each other, yet still bring out the best in each other," Davis said of his quartet. "Having three all-staters back this year, we had expectations. And now Emma has really gotten a lot better and even won a tournament back early in the year.
"So I feel like all pistons are firing ... and we hope to keep firing next week at Glenwood Country Club."
Meet still a go
A number of cross country meets have been canceled this season for various reasons, including the Star City Classic that was originally set to take place Saturday at Cane Creek State Park. But Russellville Athletic Director Johnny Johnson confirmed Wednesday that the Cyclone Invitational will still take place Saturday morning.
Johnson said the meet will begin at 9 a.m. at Old Post Park in Russellville. The boys will run first while the girls are slated to begin at 9:30 a.m.
Defending Class 6A boys and girls champion Bentonville, and reigning Class 5A girls titlist Greenwood are among the teams registered.
Last year's event was won by the Conway boys and the Bentonville girls.
The Harding Academy boys golf team will head to the Class 3A state golf tournament in two weeks as 3A-2 Conference champions. The Wildcats had three players finish in the top four, led by medalist Jack Henry Wise. Kyle Ferrie was second and Kayden Swindle grabbed fourth. ... Fort Smith Northside's scheduled volleyball match today at Little Rock Southwest has been canceled because of covid-19 concerns. Last week, Southwest had a number of students quarantined after it was determined one of them tested positive for covid-19 and had been in close contact with several others. ... Both Shiloh Christian and Fayetteville continue to dominate on the volleyball courts. The Lady Saints (11-0, 9-0 4A-Northwest) have won 33 of the 38 sets they've played. The Lady Bulldogs (10-0, 6-0 6A-West) have been even more overpowering. Fayetteville has dropped just two of the 32 sets it's appeared in and has won 18 consecutive sets since losing the third frame against Nixa, Mo., on Aug. 29.