BY RICK WRIGHT –
The Mena Ladycats’ run in the Class 4A State Volleyball Tournament ended in the Semi-Finals round where the eventual State Champion Brookland Ladycats defeated Mena three games to none.
Mena knocked off West Fork 25-11, 25-19, 25-16 in round one; and thumped tournament host Lonoke 25-16, 25-16, 25-11 to reach the Semi-Finals.
The Brookland Ladycats defeated Mena 25-18, 25-22 and 25-15. Brookland went on to defeat Huntsville in the State Championship Game 25-19, 25-7, 18-25 and 25-22.
“Anytime you start off the year, you start thinking about goals and I always tell my team, lets start with the goals of winning a conference championship,” said Ladycat Head Volleyball Coach Brad Lyle. “Then a District Championship. The State Tournament will take care of itself. One of the things I knew, going in this year, if we pulled off a District Championship we would not be getting the best draw in the State Tournament. I’m not afraid to play good teams, because you know you’ve got to beat the best to be the best, but our side had Brookland who ended up winning the State Championship and then Shiloh Christian on the side with us. Brookland really shouldn’t have been. Had they won their conference championship, they would have been opposite from us. But, Westside would have been over here with us, and Westside was really good. So, I knew that if we did make it deep into the playoffs we were going to have to play extremely well.”
“We played very, very well to get to the Semi’s,” said Lyle. “I thought we were playing as well as we had all year. Lonoke was a very quality team. They were ranked number one in the state for most of the year and in the quarter finals, we just dismantled them. But we got to that Semi-Final game and we started off pretty good. We got up 6-2. The game got real fast for us and we didn’t handle some of the situations. I give all the credit to Brookland. They did not give us a chance to catch our breath. That’s what good teams do. We’ve done that to many a team this year.”
“First game it just got away from us,” said Lyle. “In the second game it started off bad and then we started making our comeback. For about a 10 or 15 point stretch we played like we were capable and we were the better team. But, when we weren’t able to pull out game two, that really zapped our confidence and Brookland just didn’t let us out of it. Would I have given up a chance for a District Championship to be on the opposite side of the bracket and maybe have a really good chance of making the Finals? No, that’s just not how I’m wired.”
“This team had a great year, they achieved way more than 90% of the people out there gave them a chance to, and I’m not happy with coming up short, but they did a great job,” said Lyle.
It was an incredible year and six Ladycats will be graduating. However, Mena has a wealth of potential coming up from the Junior Ladycats, plus a lot of these girls gained a lot of experience this year.
“Yes, we’ve got a lot coming back,” said Lyle. “And we’ve got a lot of kids that have been waiting their turn, kinda like some of these girls did. Then we’ve got an influx of ninth graders that showed great potential, so we’ll make us another run next year.”