ANDERSON — Madison-Grant and Alexandria have met in the past three Madison County Volleyball Tournament championship matches. And the Argylls have won the past two.
But the winds of change are blowing as the nine county participants prepare to open this year's event tonight at three sites.
Madison-Grant lost four seniors from last year's state-ranked club — including two-time Herald Bulletin Player of the Year Hunter Wise and all-state setter Katie Kohlmorgen — and is still attempting to find its way this fall.
Head coach Bob Holloway has tinkered with his lineup — starting as many as four freshmen at times — and still is searching for the perfect mix. That experimentation, and a unique format that begins with pool play and ends with a single-elimination tournament, lends an aura of unpredictability to this year's tourney.
"Right now, we're really focused on ourselves, and not really on other people," Holloway said.
The Argylls are off to a 7-4 start and lost an early season matchup against county rival Pendleton Heights (7-3) in three games. Since then, the team has started to find its groove, winning four of its past five matches.
Madison-Grant is in Pool A at Lapel and will face the host Bulldogs to start the tournament at 5:30 p.m. The Argylls then face Elwood, with a match between Lapel and the Panthers closing the evening.
Pool play will determine seeding for a single-elimination tournament to crown the county champion beginning Saturday at 9 a.m. at Elwood. The championship match is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Teams are assigned to the single-elimination bracket based on their records in pool play. But nobody will be eliminated after tonight's opening rounds.
"Wherever you fall, you fall," Holloway said. "There's nothing you can really do about where you're bracketing is. You've just gotta go play."
Pool C has the most interesting matchup with host Pendleton Heights facing Alexandria (10-2) to start play at 5:30. The Tigers then will meet Liberty Christian, with the Lions and Arabians meeting to close out the pool.
Frankton hosts Pool B and will take on Anderson at 5:30. The Tribe then plays against Anderson Prep, and the Jets and Eagles close out the evening.
Alexandria could be considered an early favorite heading in, but Pendleton Heights and Madison-Grant likely will have something to say about that before the tournament is through. The Arabians boast perhaps the event's most impressive individual talent — junior Quincey Gary already has accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Alabama when her high school career is over.
Two-time defending champ Madison-Grant, meanwhile, is looking for new stars to emerge in place of its departed talent.
"We feel that effect (from the losses of Wise and Kohlmorgen) a little bit," Holloway said. "It's just a little bit different. It's something we're trying to get better at every day."