As the 3A-1 volleyball conference season winds down, the Charleston Lady Tigers played a non-conference match with the Lavaca Lady Golden Arrows on Monday night. The Lady Tigers defeated Lavaca 3-0 for the second time this season. Monday’s match in Charleston completed a sweep of the Lady Arrows in which Charleston did not lose a set in either match. The win improved Charleston’s record to 13-2 overall and 8-2 in conference play.
After the match, Charleston coach Ryan Rachuy assessed his team’s performance. “When you’re Charleston, everybody wants to come in and beat you. No matter what sport. And you can take that as a positive and a negative, and I want us to take that as a positive. I want us to take it as a challenge. We have to step up to the challenge to beat a team. Because it is difficult to be the team that everybody wants to go after. I know that teams like Paris feel it, Mansfield has felt it, and now we are feeling it. When you’re the team that is playing well then you’ve got to be able to play at the top of your game. You’re going to get everybody’s best shot. Lavaca has a great group of girls that go out and play hard. They don’t give up on any ball. They got some really good swings in; they were swinging from every spot of the court. That’s impressive. In the first set, I had us down for 12 or 13 errors, and that is a compliment to them. Ended up being able to pull that out, challenged my girls similarly to when we did against Mansfield when we had 12 errors in the first set and I challenged our girls to cut the errors in half. We did, we cut it to six errors then and we did again tonight. Really wish we could have played a little more consistently in that third set. Once we gave up the first three to five points, and we’re just trying to hang around, the next thing we know we get a point back here, we get a point on a serve error, and another serve, and we get another couple of points back there. And it’s back and forth, back and forth. We finally make it where it’s close and we got balls up, out of the net, and started feeding Jadyn (Womack).”
The Lady Tigers entered the week ranked sixth in class 3A by Max Preps. Charleston is ranked 34th overall in Arkansas across all classifications. The Lady Tigers only losses this season have been to the number one ranked Paris Lady Eagles.
Charleston has a grueling three match schedule this week that started with a tough non-conference match with Lavaca and will continue on Tuesday with a home conference match with West Fork. The Lady Tigers will travel to Waldron on Thursday to play a critical conference match with the Lady Bulldogs. Charleston is focused on finishing the conference season this week and next to wrap up the second seed in the senior district tournament. Critical road trips to Waldron and Mansfield await the Lady Tigers.
It is the time of year when coaches must strike a balance between pushing their teams to improve as much as possible before post-season tournament play begins, versus getting their teams the necessary amount of rest to enable them to have fresh legs and high energy for the tournament run. This is part of the art form of coaching, and it is a process that began several months ago with the scheduling of matches to be played in the final weeks. The Charleston coaching staff scheduled non-conference matches to end this week so that the Lady Tigers game schedule will begin to taper off with just two conference matches next week going into the district tournament the week after next. Coach Rachuy indicated that the tournament practice schedule will be dependent on the seeding the Lady Tigers earn going into the district tournament. Proper rest is important to the players this time of year for energy and to heal from season long injuries and / or soreness. Charleston, like any other contending program, wants to peak at tournament time and play their best volleyball of the season when they will be competing for district and state tournament titles.
The Lady Tigers will play in the Paris Lady Eagle invitational tournament on Saturday. The tournament will provide an opportunity for Charleston to step out of conference play and get some additional work in on Saturday that will hopefully payoff in the post season. The Paris tournament will end an intense week for the team before they play their final two matches of the regular season next week.
The conference season concludes next week for the Lady Tigers with a road game at Mansfield on Tuesday, October 15 and a final home match on Thursday, October 17 against Elkins. Senior night will be held on October 17, and that should be an emotional night as this outstanding senior class will play their final home match at the Charleston gymnasium. The 3A-1 district tournament will be held at West Fork High School the following week.
But for now, just as they have all season, the Lady Tigers have to remain focused on each match. That means that the West Fork game on Tuesday is now the most important game of the season for Charleston. The stakes are getting higher, and a slip up at this point of the season could have major implications with respect to tournament seeding, the quality of opponent that would be faced in the opening round, and the backets the Lady Tigers would occupy in the district tournament. With only three teams advancing from district to the state tournament, the next nine days are critical for the Lady Tigers.
Charleston will once again rely on their awesome senior class to lead them through the last nine days of the regular season.