BY MELANIE BUCK –
With the Ladycats heading into familiar territory, the Bearcats are kicking their way into the school history books as both teams battle it out for the honor of returning to Mena with state titles, not only for their teams for but the many proud fans, which have supported them in their hard-fought quests.
The Mena Ladycats are looking for their second consecutive championship trophy while the Bearcats seek their first. Both teams advanced after wins last week and both will play in Fayetteville at the University of Arkansas this weekend.
The Mena Ladycat Softball team has a long history of working together, of living, eating, and breathing softball, and becoming a family. Most of the senior girls on the team have played ball together for both the school and their traveling team, the Mena Heat for a decade. Sharing each other’s blood, sweat, and tears, they will end their high school careers where they have worked for eleven years to get.
The girls won their state bid on Saturday when they defeated Nashville with a score of 3-2 in the semifinals of the state tournament held in Mena.
Under the direction of Head Coach Ray Hunter, the Mena Ladycats have a 2016 overall record of 20-7 and a conference record of 7-0. The Ladycats are currently ranked 10 in the entire state and 365th in the nation. Their play on the field is unprecedented in Mena’s history. In 2015, the Ladycats not only won the 4A State Championship, but they were undefeated in league play and finished with an overall record of 27-3. Coach Ray Hunter said, “These seniors will will end their softball careers as the most winning group ever at Mena High School. Their high school record right now is 101-21; they are playing in their third straight state championship game, and the worst they have finished was in the state semifinals.”
Coach Hunter also said they are facing a very good team in the finals, stating that Pocahontas has only lost four games this season and “will present a very tough test for our Ladycats.”
Proving the final game to already be bittersweet, Coach Hunter added, “These seniors will always hold a special place in my heart. They work hard in every aspect of their life. They are A-students, they are leaders in school, and they are winners on the softball field. Their future will be full of great thingd because they already know how to work hard to achieve great goals.”
To complete their year, the Ladycats will face Pocahontas in the final game on Friday, May 20, at 5:30 p.m., in Bogle Park at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, with hopes to bring home another trophy for the case. If you’re unable to make the game on Friday, tune in to KQOR 105.3FM to hear play-by-play action.
On Saturday, the Mena Bearcat Soccer team will battle it out at 4 p.m. against Dardanelle on Razorback Field at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. This is the first time Bearcat Soccer has made it to the final dance. Coached by Craig Bentley, these boys have laid it all out and hope to also bring home the championship trophy to Mena High School.
During state tournament play, the Bearcats swept Monticello 4-0 in the first round before beating Prairie Grove 1-0 in round 2. Unfortunately, to get to the final game, the Bearcats had to beat fellow Polk County team, the Cossatot River Eagles in the semi-finals last Saturday. The Bearcats edged the Eagles with a 2-1 score, sending one team home while the other propelled forward.
The Bearcats’ record this year stands at 16-3 with a 9-1 conference record. Coach Bentley said, “These kids have earned everything they have gotten all year. We have a great mix of upperclassmen, foreign exchange students, and younger players who have really meshed well together. We made it our goal to win the conference championship and we knew if we did that, the rest would take care of itself. We were able to accomplish that and earn a great draw in the state tournament. We knew we had a chance to make a run. We didn’t always play our best, but we found ways to win. I couldn’t be more excited for this group of selfless individuals and we are excited about the chance to play for a state championship.”