Charleston Volleyball 2019 Pre-Season Special

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As the start of the 2019 Charleston Tigers volleyball season approaches, Coach Ryan Rachuy is in mid-season form. To say the Tigers coach is passionate and ready for the season may be the understatement of the year. On Friday, this reporter had the opportunity to sit down with Coach Rachuy to get his thoughts on the upcoming season.

As we walked into the Charleston gym, the building was empty. Rachuy had given his team the day off to prepare for the start of school. But as he turned on the lights, you could immediately see the volleyballs, cones, etc., that were strewn across the floor. “Looks like our girls were in last night to get in some extra hitting”, said Coach Rachuy. Yes, although the team had the day off, they had worked out on their own the night before to get in some extra work. Evidence of the work ethic and culture in the Charleston program that Coach Rachuy has implemented. And undoubtedly, will pay off big for the Tigers as they look to take the next step in the program of being competitive in the state tournament.

Immediately, Coach Rachuy’s love for Charleston was apparent. “I’ve known this place since I was in high school. We used to play Charleston. I played basketball, football, baseball, I ran track, I did everything.” “I went to a little school in Missouri called Culver-Stockton College, played football and baseball there. I transferred down to SAU (Southern Arkansas University) and I played football and baseball there. I finally finished at Arkansas Tech.” Rachuy’s background prepared him for change and starting new things. His background prepared him well for starting Charleston’s volleyball program.

“You come into volleyball, and, especially around here, five years ago when we started, it was Paris and Mansfield. Mansfield had won two state titles before, Paris had been in the finals with them those years. It seemed like it was always those two teams battling it out. When they said they were going to put volleyball into Charleston, I did a little research. I knew Paris was good. I said, OK, where are we playing?

“The first year, we are playing as many teams as we could. But the next year they put us into a conference. That conference was Mena, who had won a state title. Lavaca, who had won a state title. Mansfield who had won a couple. Paris who had won one at that time, and would go on to win four, and defending this year. There was just a lot of competition there.” We were playing Hackett, where coach Freeman is doing an amazing job there, and who we are going to play a benefit match with this year. But in all honesty, you want to get good at a sport, you want to get your program to grow quickly, that’s what you got to have.”

Charleston’s volleyball conference is as tough as any in the state. “Teams like Paris just go after you. Teams like Mansfield just go after you. You have to learn, I have to learn as a coach, what are they doing. I have to get better, better every year.”

“Charleston’s athletic department has been competitive in everything. This is something I believe Charleston [volleyball] can be. We gotta put in the time, gotta put in the effort. And I have been fortunate enough since we have started that I have girls that just want to learn. They want to come out here and work their tails off. We made the state tournament the first year we were eligible to do so. Not a lot of people know that or realize that, but our second year of playing volleyball we got to go to the state tournament.”

Coach Rachuy has networked with other coaches around the region and the state to benefit the Charleston program. Specifically, he mentioned coaches at Paris, Hackett, Greenwood, Fort Smith Southside, UAFS, and others in seeking advice and learning opportunities for him to bring to the Tigers program. “I want Charleston to be a good as possible, to be the best volleyball program we can have. I want Charleston to have the best volleyball program in the state. But the next thing, I want every school around to pick this sport up.”

Of the players who began the Charleston program in 2015, this year’s junior class were 7th graders that first year. “I’m just now getting girls that have been in the volleyball program for five years.”

Jadyn Womack

Rachuy has always supported his players playing multiple sports but admits that he has also been fortunate to have some that have solely focused on volleyball.

“Jadyn Womack, as the program started, it seemed like the more we did it, the more she got into it. She’s in here, and I have had other girls who do it, is in here 10 minutes before practice starts and stays 15 minutes after practice is over. “Her vertical is just outrageous right now. And its that type of work ethic that has other girls looking at it [volleyball].”

For the Tigers to reach the state tournament, they will rely heavily on both experienced players and newcomers to senior high volleyball for stepping up their games and showing leadership both on and off the court.

“For us this year, it starts with Jadyn. Over the last three years, she has been a player that’s elevated her game. I’m not saying at all that the other girls haven’t, but, she has just really done the work. She gives 100% of her effort 100% of the time. She wants her teammates to be the best they can be, too.”

“I’ve got girls like Kylie Frederick who is a returning starter in the middle from last year, an extremely capable player. She’s a great server, was probably our best server last year.”

“Sydney Kaempfe, hitting in the opposite, has become a much more consistent, aggressive hitter from the opposite side. That’s one of the reasons why I think we have the potential to do well.”

“Girls like Bria Byrd who got a lot of playing time last year and will be looked at a lot in the middle this year. She is a girl that has a lot of potential. When she is focused, she is really tough to play.”

“But then I have girls like our junior setter, Gracie Young. Gracie came in and started for me last year as a sophomore as a setter. As the year went along, she got better and better. More consistent with where she was setting the ball.”

“Defensively speaking, we lost our libero, but we have Kenzie Revis who will be working for that spot. We have girls like Rylan Robinson coming in as a junior battling for that spot. We have several girls that will be battling for defensive spots.”

A competitive sophomore class has the potential to see three or four players get playing time this season, adding to the senior high talent base that makes the future for Charleston volleyball bright.

A competitive sophomore class has the potential to see three or four players get playing time this season, adding to the senior high talent base that makes the future for Charleston volleyball bright.

When asked who he expects to be at the forefront of this year’s district, coach Rachuy commented that “until someone beats them, Paris has to be the favorite.” Booneville, Hackett, and Waldron were other schools that Rachuy expects to be competitive for the precious few state playoff births from the district tournament. “If we are playing to our level of expectation, are playing to our level of ability, I believe we can make it to the state tournament first off, that’s the first thing. Being in state and competing at state is a totally different thing. Because now you are looking at teams like Walnut Ridge, Hot Springs Lakeside, Ashdown, Hoxie, I mean, there are teams all around the state that are good volleyball programs.”

“Community-wise, they [Charleston fans] take a lot of pride in the athletic department here at Charleston. But they also take a lot of pride in the kids.” “Members of our community want the success for our school, our program, and our kids.”

“That’s just being a part of Charleston. You have to expect everybody’s best. Because everybody wants to beat Charleston. The question to my players is can you handle being in that position?”

The Tigers open the 2019 season at Clarksville on Monday, August 26. The team will travel the next day to Ozark to play the Hillbillies. Charleston’s first home game will be played on Thursday, August 29 vs. Huntsville. The team is looking forward to a capacity crowd on August 29 to welcome the team home for their first home match. Home court advantage is important to the team and Rachuy wants to see a capacity crowd for all of Charleston’s home matches.

The next opportunity to see the Tigers volleyball team in action is Thursday, August 15, 5:30 p.m., for the annual Black / White scrimmage match. The Tigers will host Hackett August 20, 4 p.m., in a pre-season match to benefit the Arkansas Activities Association catastrophic injury fund. Their final pre-season warm-up will be at the 3A Preview Festival that will be held at Harding Academy in Searcy on August 24. The Festival will have a “jamboree” format and will not have bracket play.

In just the fifth year of the Tigers program, hopes are high for a very successful 2019 season that will take the Tigers to a trip to the state tournament and beyond. They look forward to a capacity crowd on August 15, and for each home match, to support a dedicated group of players who have pioneered the program and continue to work hard to realize their hopes and dreams. And if this year follows suit, the Tigers gymnasium that has witnessed so much history of the past, will witness a new chapter this year in Charleston Tigers championship play.

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