By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Eighteen Redwood Empire volleyball teams, including four each from the North Bay League and Sonoma County League, received invitations on Sunday to compete in the North Coast Section tournament.
The first of four rounds will be played Wednesday with championship matches in all sections set for Nov. 23.
The NCS seeded six divisions and the Empire is represented in every bracket except Division 1. Schools are grouped by enrollment.
One Empire team received a No. 1 seed and that was Anderson Valley in Division 6. The Boonville school drew a first-round bye and will swing into action on Saturday.
Three NBL teams, headed by league champ Maria Carrillo, earned Division 2 berths. The Pumas, seeded No. 2, host No. 15 Arroyo in the first round. No. 7 Montgomery travels to No. 10 Clayton Valley Charter and No. 12 Windsor will journey to No. 5 Newark Memorial.
As long as Carrillo keeps winning, the Pumas will play at home through at least the first three rounds.
“That’s definitely a plus,” coach Ally Sather said. “It’s good to be in a familiar setting with so much on the line.”
Sather played on three Carrillo teams that won NCS championships.
Last year, the Pumas lost in the final to Las Lomas. Seven players on that squad are back.
“Experience certainly helps in NCS play,” Sather said. “It’s a different kind of pressure. That’s why it’s great to be at home with a big crowd rooting for you. Players feed off that energy.”
Division 3 finds three teams from the SCL headed by No. 3 Sonoma Valley. The Dragons, the league champs, play host to No. 14 Encinal in the opening round.
No. 8 Petaluma also earned a Wednesday home match. The Trojans will entertain No. Sir Francis Drake.
No. 11 Analy, meanwhile, will travel to No. 6 Acalanes.
The other SCL team in NCS is Healdsburg. The Greyhounds were given the No. 3 seed in Division 4 and have an opening-round bye. Their first match is at home on Saturday night.
Cardinal Newman, the final NBL school in the draw, is the No. 5 team in Division 4. The Cardinals will host No. 12 Salesian on Wednesday.
Other Empire schools in that bracket are: No. 9 Kelseyville, No. 10 St. Helena, No. 11 Middletown and No. 13 Roseland Prep.
Representing Sonoma County in Division 5 will be No. 10 St. Vincent and No. 11 Sonoma Academy.
Both schools have road games in the opening round. St. Vincent visits No. 7 College Prep while Sonoma Academy goes to No. 6 Convent of the Sacred Heart.
The Empire schools, led by Anderson Valley, boasts the first three seeds in Division 6. Rincon Valley Christian got No. 2 and Mendocino is No. 3.
Point Arena is also in the bracket and was pegged No. 10.
Anderson Valley coach Mike McDonald wasn’t surprised the committee put his team on top.
“We were certainly expecting it,” he said. “We were 12-0 in NCL III and beat some good teams during the season.”
The Panthers own wins against RVC, Mendocino, San Marin and Rancho Cotate.
Anderson Valley has won the Division 6 trophy the past three years.