As the storm approached Waldron Thursday night, another was brewing inside the Waldron multi-purpose building. In a battle of what could be two of three district qualifiers for the state tournament, Charleston defeated Waldron three sets to one. Lightning struck in the second set when the Lady Bulldogs defeated Charleston 25-20. The second set loss to Waldron was just the first non-Paris set loss of the conference season for the Lady Tigers. Charleston (15-2, 10-2) increased their lead for second place in the conference as they completed the first stop of the southern road swing through the district. The Lady Tigers will now travel to Mansfield on Tuesday in its final road conference game of the season.
Waldron played with intensity and purpose as they battled the Lady Tigers all night. The Lady Bulldogs committed fewer errors on Thursday night than they did in their first meeting in Charleston. As the lights went out in the Waldron gymnasium, I interviewed coach Ryan Rachuy following the Charleston win. Coach Rachuy had praise for Waldron’s effort. “Second set, first part of the third set… they (Waldron) played smart volleyball. They find the holes in the defense and they try to get the ball there. We were able to, at the very beginning, first set, we were able to impose our will. Got ourselves out to a decent lead, and then pulled back and they (Waldron) made it a little more interesting. But, we were able to get the first set. Second set, we were not able to get ourselves separated. We were not able to play with the intensity they had. We were not able to play with energy and that affected our effort. You drop a set and you had better learn from it. The beginning of the third set I wondered if we did. After about the first 10-12 points in the third set, I think the seniors decided that was enough. I know Jadyn (Womack) was talking to them, I know that Khiley (Frederick) was talking to them. I know that Kenzie (Revis) was out there trying to be a big encourager for them. All of those seniors out there got together and decided that the level that we need to have as our standard was not the level we were playing at. We finally started to get to that. Not to take anything away from Waldron, but we got a few errors, and then we started to get on a roll. The longer you let teams hang around, the harder it is. They (Waldron) were not right behind us in conference for nothing. They play smart volleyball.”
Charleston will now take a break from conference play as they will compete Saturday in the Paris Lady Eagle invitational tournament. The Lady Tigers will resume the final week of conference play on Tuesday at Mansfield and will return home on Thursday to host Elkins in their final conference game. Charleston’s seniors will play their final home game on senior night versus the Lady Elks.
For Waldron, the Lady Bulldogs have continued to improve all season, and they will be very competitive in a cluster of teams that will be fighting in the district tournament for a spot in the state tournament. Whoever plays Waldron in the district tournament will need to come ready to play. The Lady Bulldogs are capable of upsetting anyone at tournament time.
Thursday night’s match at Waldron may be the wake up call the Lady Tigers have needed before district tournament play. Charleston has played magnificently all season, and the team has been led by a very special group of seniors who have been on a mission to achieve team goals of taking the program to it highest point to date. Timing is everything, and perhaps the Lady Tigers have had their point in the season where they have slumped a little as the conference season comes to an end. If that is the case, Charleston has the opportunity next week and beyond to peak at tournament time when it will count the most.
After covering this team all season, I expect Charleston to get its second wind and begin the push for the district and possibly the state tournaments. But before then, two more matches await the Lady Tigers. One more week of conference play, and then the third season, tournament play, begins.
It is time for the Lady Tigers to play lights out.