The Mena Ladycats hosted their Annual Ladycat Classic on Saturday, August 29, and for the second straight year, won the Gold Tournament Championship, defeating 5A Lakeside, 2-1 (23-25, 25-17, 15-9).
“We really played solid all day long,” said Ladycats head coach Brad Lyle. “The girls have really come a long way in the past five or six days. We started off the week 0-0 and finish the week, 9-0.”
Twelve teams participated in the Ladycat Classic: including five teams from Class 3A: Booneville, Lavaca, Paris, Mansfield, and Jessieville, five teams from Class 4A: Mena, Waldron, Arkadelphia, Ashdown and Fountain Lake, one team from Class 5A: Lakeside, and one team from Class 6A: Lake Hamilton.
Teams were split into three pools, with Mena playing Booneville, Lavaca, and Lake Hamilton.
The Ladycats defeated Booneville in the first match of pool play, 25-19 and 25-15. Booneville ended up finishing second in the pool and advanced to the Gold Tournament. “Booneville is a really scrappy team and made us earn every point,” said Lyle. “I was pleased to see the girls play so well at 9:00 a.m. in the morning.”
The Ladycats next pool play match was against the Lady Golden Arrows of Lavaca, and Mena won the contest 25-14, 25-12.
“We were able to attack Lavaca the whole game,” explained Lyle. “We didn’t free-ball to them and were able to finish them off.”
The final pool play match for Mena was against 6A Lake Hamilton. The Ladycats continued to capitalize and carried their momentum to a 25-11 and 25-16 victory. With the win, the Ladycats advanced to the Gold Tournament with a 3-0 pool play record.
The Ladycats advanced to the semifinals to play a very tough Paris team, who are projected to go all the way to the 3A State Championship this year. Mena continued to roll, defeating the Lady Eagles, 25-12 and 25-16, to advance to the Gold Tournament Championship.
“We’ve implemented a new offense and a new defense this year,” said Lyle. “The Paris game exemplified exactly why we did it, too. We were able to really attack them from all over the court.”
The Ladycats were matched with 5A Lakeside in the Gold Tournament Championship and defeated the Lady Rams in three sets, 23-25, 25-17 and 15-9 in the tie breaker.
“Lakeside really plays an unorthodox style,” explained Lyle. “It works for them, but it really took us that first game to learn how to defend them. I was really happy to see how the girls responded after losing the first game, because they could have fallen apart, but these girls do not like to fall apart.”
Paris and Fountain Lake would have played in the third place game in the Gold Tournament, but only the Championship was played. 6A Lake Hamilton went on to defeat Ashdown in the Silver Tournament to win that championship. Like the other tournament, no third place game was played, but it would have featured Mansfield against Arkadelphia.
In closing, coach Lyle talked about where this team is compared to last year’s team at this time. “We’re every bit where we were last year, if not ahead of that,” said Lyle. “We’re definitely on the right track, these girls know how to win.”