The good news for Eagles fans is that it was a non-conference loss Monday night at Mena. The loss to Mena does not affect the Lady Eagles’ conference record or standing. The bad news? Well, that is another thing.
Paris lost just its second match of the season on Monday, this time to the Class 4A Mena Lady Bearcats. The loss to Mena was the Lady Eagles’ first loss since August 27 when they lost at Fort Smith Southside. The Southside and Mena losses, although both being lopsided losses, were very different. The Lady Mavericks simply overpowered Paris through three sets, while the Lady Bearcats played a nearly flawless match with great front line play, and setters and back line players rarely letting a ball hit the floor. Mena surgically placed balls in holes in the Paris defense, as well as using power kills when the opportunities were present.
Paris (9-2, 8-0) must now develop short-term memory and quickly forget about the trip to Mena and re-focus on a critical road conference match against the Charleston Lady Tigers. Mix in all of this with threat of flu and COVID-19 surrounding teams in the league, and all of the sudden, Paris and other schools in the 3A West face a very uncertain future.
At Southside, the Lady Eagles simply seemed overwhelmed by a talented and powerful Lady Mavericks team that is ranked second overall in Arkansas by Max Preps. On Monday night, Paris faced an undefeated 4A team in the Lady Bearcats. Mena has not lost a set all season and looks to be in position to possibly sweep the 4A West conference. The Lady Bearcats started a senior lineup that is experienced, talented, and well coached. But tonight’s loss was not as much about how well Mena played, but how the Lady Eagles struggled.
Paris seemed lethargic, out of sync with each other, and struggled with communication on the floor. The Paris front line had no answer for the strategically placed tips and kills of the Mena front line. In short, it just was not Paris’s night, and it came on the road against a very good team. The Lady Eagles did not look like themselves, especially like the team over the past six or seven weeks.
So now, Paris must forget this loss quickly and re-focus on a Charleston Lady Tigers team that would love nothing more than to jump on Paris and pick-up a big win for their season and their program Tuesday night at Tiger Center. Charleston coach Ryan Rachuy always has his team ready to play, and the Lady Eagles can count on a team that is hungry to beat them in their first season of playing home games in Tiger Center. Yes, the Lady Eagles have to learn from Monday night’s experience; shake it off, and come out flying high for Tuesday’s match with Charleston.
The Charleston Lady Tigers are 6-3 overall and 5-3 in conference play. They are tied with West Fork for third place in the conference. Waldron is 4-3 and has played one less game in conference play. A Charleston victory would help solidify their standing in third place and would put them two games behind both Hackett and Paris.
Tuesday’s match-up in Charleston is the second match in the conference round-robin schedule. In the first conference match of the year for both schools back on August 25, Paris defeated Charleston 3-0. Charleston has three consecutive home games with Paris on Tuesday night, Lincoln on Thursday, September 24, and West Fork on Tuesday, September 29. This is the point of the season in which the leaders want to separate themselves from the rest of the conference in the wins and losses columns, and those in the middle of the conference look to make runs to compete for the conference title or to improve their seeds for the state tournament. Either way, both schools have a lot to play for Tuesday night in Charleston.
For Paris, they have to find themselves as a team, and they have to do it quickly. If I know this team like I think I do, they and their coach, Jordan Devine, are not interested in any excuses for their play or the quality of non-conference opponents they have played. The only thing they care about at this point is how they are playing and about the issues that need to be fixed and fixed quickly.
The bright spot for the Paris volleyball program was a win by the Lady Eagles’ junior A team over previously unbeaten Mena. The match went three sets and the junior Lady Eagles, who have been steadily improving over the past few weeks, went back to Paris with a huge non-conference win.
Who knows? Monday night in Mena could have been a wake up call for the Lady Eagles after a blistering stretch where they had reeled off seven straight wins since the loss to Southside. It is my guess that this team will not be in a good mood on Tuesday night and they will be anxious to get back on the floor and play at the level they know they are capable of playing. The Lady Eagles have to be ready to play mentally when they step off the bus at Tiger Center, and I believe they will.
So volleyball fans, you will not want to miss Tuesday’s match-up in Charleston. It should be a great match between two great programs and two great coaches. A lot is riding on this match, as Charleston looks to make a second half run for the rest of the season, and Paris looks to get back on track for the final push to the playoffs. So get your tickets, and get there early. The seventh grade match will start at 4 p.m., and will be followed by Junior A, Senior B, and Senior A matches.
See you in Charleston on Tuesday night, and don’t forget that Resident Press will have a full recap of this game on Wednesday afternoon.
Stay with Resident Press for all of the news and updates on Paris Lady Eagles and Class 3A West volleyball action!