BY NORM BETZ –
Three’s a Charm!
Mena captured their first-ever 4A State Volleyball Title in Ladycats Head Coach Brad Lyle’s third trip to the State Finals, finishing runner-up the two previous times. This year, Coach Lyle and the Ladycats would not be denied as they defeated the Shiloh Lady Saints, 3-1 (22-25, 25-11, 25-16, 25-20).
The Ladycats uncharacteristically started off slow in the first set, trailing by as many as nine points, 19-10, before
putting together a pair of late runs. The first five point run was guided by the serving of senior Bailey Bunch, while the second run was behind the serve of junior Daryan Torix. Mena cut the lead to one point, trailing 23-22, but ultimately dropped the first set to the Lady Saints, 22-25.
“We usually come out and get the job done, but for some reason these last few days we’ve gotten off to a slower start,” said Lyle. Coach Lyle was referring to the semifinal match-up with Berryville where the Ladycats ended up in uncharted waters going the full five sets for the first time all season.
The Ladycats carried the late set one momentum, into the second set, and handily defeated the Lady Saints, 25-11. Mena led by as many as 14 points on two different occasions during the set, which was highlighted by aces from juniors Kenzi Spurgin and Jordan Ward and timely kills from senior Rachael Wood and juniors Macy Brotherton and Brooke Hines. The Ladycats knotted the sets at 1-all.
Shiloh scored the first three points of the third set and led twice before Mena imposed their will on the Lady Saints. The Ladycats led by as many 12 points in the set and ultimately put Shiloh away 25-16, to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth set was an all out battle as Mena was trying to capture their first State Title and Shiloh was trying to stay alive and force a fifth and deciding set. The two teams put on quite the show tying the score 17 different times during the set. Once the Lady Saints tied the score at 20-all, the Ladycats had had enough and scored the final five points of the set to capture the 4A State Championship, 25-20.
After the match, Coach Lyle talked about what a special group of girls made up this State Championship team and just how unselfish his players were this season. He never referred to or singled out his six starters all year, instead referring to everyone who played in the regular rotation as starters. He also said the girls were not interested in stats but rather playing together as a team. In fact, when asked by a member of the media after the game about individual statistics, Coach Lyle responded, “Ladycats won the game and we are the State Champs!”
Mena Ladycats end their 4A State Championship season with an overall record of 31-2, while the Shiloh Lady Saints ended their 2014 campaign with 29-4 overall record.