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Monday, May 16, 2022

Charleston Defeats Elkins 3-0 on Senior Night

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At 7:48 p.m. on Thursday, it came to an end. The Charleston volleyball seniors scored their final point to defeat Elkins, and their high school careers playing at Charleston gymnasium came to an end. The team still has a lot of volleyball left to play, but playing their final game at home in front of the Charleston fans was something special. On this night, it was a very emotional time for the Lady Tigers as the community turned out to honor a very special and successful group of seniors.

The game almost seemed to be an after thought. Charleston (19-3-1, 12-2) defeated Elkins 3-0. The Lady Tigers completed the regular season as conference runner ups, losing only to defending state champion Paris.

The Charleston junior high team also won on Thursday night, and clinched the third seed in the upcoming junior high district tournament that will be played in Paris on Saturday. Check Resident Press today for more information on Saturday’s junior district tournament.

This year’s senior class has produced perhaps the most successful season in the program’s history. How their legacy will be written will depend on how they play next week in the district tournament and beyond. This is a team who has played the top team in the state to five sets, and has split two sets in the Paris Invitational tournament with Fountain Lake who is the number two team in the state. But, there will be time to discuss the tournaments and the final legacy of this team later. Thursday night belonged to the seniors.

After the match concluded, I sat down with an emotional Charleston coach, Ryan Rachuy, who not only honored the seniors on this team as their coach, but also honored his daughter who is also a senior on the team. I asked Coach Rachuy to tell me a little about each senior. We both laughed, 40 minutes later. Coach Rachuy loves his team, and it has shown all year. But on this night, he could not say enough about this senior class. “Our seniors are a group of girls that started volleyball in the eighth grade. They were the youngest girls of our first year of junior high. When we started the program, we did all three, 7th grade, junior high, and varsity. So these girls have been in the second longest amount of time as any girls we have had. A lot of this senior class, when we started, I really don’t think anybody tried to play club (JO volleyball) except for Jadyn; she started playing club after her first year. Nobody else started playing club until the second year they had started playing. When we played that second year, when they were ninth graders, we actually beat Paris in junior high. Beat them here (in Charleston). Some of those girls, it was like, that’s it, were doing it (committing to volleyball). When that happened, like I said, Jadyn was playing club, Khiley Frederick started playing club, and Sidney Kaempfe, she started playing club, Kenzie Revis started playing club, and so they started to get more and more girls involved. Girls like my daughter Rylee, Jessica Uribe, Allison White, those girls came into the gym every opportunity they had to play and practice volleyball they would.”

When asked about each senior, Coach Rachuy, with love in his voice, began to talk about each who has contributed so much to the development of a Charleston program that is just completing its fifth year. “Trinity (Atherton) actually started playing volleyball for me until her ninth grade year. And then she decided that she was going to try to concentrate on her academic work, so she stayed out. That was a good decision. She stayed out last year and then she came in and to me about coming back out her senior year. I asked her about all the thing she had talked to me about in the past, and she told me that things were scheduled out and working the way they should and she wanted to be back in (play in the program). We got her back in. Trinity is one of the girls, like Allison (White). Allison White didn’t start playing until later when her friend Sydney Kaempfe talked her into it. Came out and she really had stiff mechanics, but she goes out and plays her rear end off. She enjoys it. She’s one of those girls that enjoys being with the girls more, being a positive influence, than anything else. She loves to play, but she wants to make sure that every girl out there that they are valuable. Trinity and Allison are the emotional leaders.”

Coach Rachuy continued to talk about his seniors. “Sydney Kaempfe, I didn’t know where to put her we she first started. We played her on the outside, but I needed someone to play on the opposite, on the right side, and so she went over there and it seemed natural to her, and she just got better and better and better. I’m telling you, when it’s crunch time, when we need a kill, our setters know that although we have Jadyn, Sidney is a solid option. Because Sydney has improved so much. Her vertical (jump) is much better than it was. She plays smart and has improved by leaps and bounds over when she first started playing volleyball.”

Rachuy continued, “Bria Byrd is a girl, oh my goodness, she is an athletic kid, really athletic. She is an emotional roller coaster, you see her during the game as being up, up, up, then, maybe gets an unforced error and then she is all the sudden down on herself. So, we made a rule last year that she is not allowed to talk to herself. She starts laughing and understanding that she can’t do that because when she does she isn’t saying anything positive about herself. She is really energetic, she does really good things. She hit some really good balls tonight. Really good defense on the net. She’s a great kid, terrific kid, and a really good volleyball player. I’m really proud of how much she has grown.”

Then Coach Rachuy spoke of the commitment that Khiley Frederick made to volleyball that he believes was the turning point of the young Charleston program. “Khiley Frederick is a girl who was a basketball girl straight up when we first started volleyball. I at no time tried to change her mind. I am a big proponent of playing anything and everything you can. All you are going to do is get better. Khiley came over for the first two years and she shared basketball with volleyball. She came up to me later and said I’m not playing basketball anymore. I asked her if she was sure, and she said “yep.” She was one of those first girls, when Jadyn first started playing volleyball, it was the light switch is turned on, this is it. Well, I think one of the things that is awesome about Khiley is that Khiley was one of those girls that others looked at and said, wow, she is a pretty good basketball player, and she committed to volleyball. And I will be forever grateful to her for that. She really looked at what we were doing and it was a big vote of confidence for me, and like I said, I will be forever grateful to Khiley for that.”

When asked about his senior libero, Kenzie Revis, Coach Rachuy said, “Kenzie is a girl that played a lot of positions for an extended period of time. She is not a big jumper, not overly tall, but what Kenzie can do is, Kenzie is smart, she can play within herself. But when we moved her to the libero position she sold into it and she got better and better. She pushed herself to get better and better. She went to every camp she could, she went to the U of A camp, and she really pushed herself to get better. When we started summer ball last year in July, we would come in and practice, and when she made an error, she would dive on the court, get up and get ready. She did it this year as well. She did it to herself to get focus she needed to play the position. Just an amazing kid.”

“Jessica Uribe is a girl you can’t get to talk if you assigned it to her. If you said, your entire grade is dependent on you saying words in class, she is going to get a bad grade. As good of a kid as she is, and she is a great kid, she’s one of the hardest workers I have ever had. She comes in here and she doesn’t say, I want to hit, or, I want to serve. I had her playing libero, had her playing defensive specialist, outside, and all she says is “yes sir”. She goes out there and she does the job. She is just an all around great kid.”

“I’ve talked about Allison (White) and the great influence she is on our girls. Jadyn is, when you go away from volleyball, Jadyn is just an all around great kid. She does good in the classroom, there’s not a kid in the hallway that she wouldn’t consider a friend. Not one. Girls, guys, it doesn’t matter. If there’s a kid sitting in the corner of the classroom by himself and I tell Jadyn, I need you to go talk to that student, because that kid needs someone to talk to, she will walk right over there. It doesn’t bother her a bit. In the classroom she is on top of it. She is responsible. She makes sure she takes care of her business in the classroom. She won homecoming queen this year. She is just an all around, great kid. She works with her church, I mean, the kid doesn’t stop. She has played club ball. She was on the 16 national team her sophomore year. That year, we started volleyball like the fifth of July, and she had stopped playing volleyball club just four days prior. So, she went from the end of high school ball, right into club, and didn’t finish club until four days prior to the start of her junior year. She just kept on going. The improvement was huge. Her vertical, she is probably touching nine and a half feet, if not higher. She’s a leader on the court. Bria (Byrd) said it best, “”whatever Jadyn Womack tells me to do, I’m doing it.””

“I’ve got two senior managers, Sierra (Montgomery) who played volleyball her first year. Played in the eighth grade. Sierra is an outstanding softball player, and she wanted to be part of this her senior year. When she came out for volleyball, she hits the ball a ton. But, she made the wise decision for her. She has a lot of friends out here, a lot of friends who love her, and she wanted to be a manager. Cheyenne is another senior manager as well. Cheyenne actually played for me until tenth grade. Cheyenne worked and improved, and her main position was middle. She realized that she wasn’t going to get any taller, and she said, you know what, I’m not going to leave this stuff. She committed to these girls to be their manager and it’s pretty awesome.”

“Itchy (Canals) is a girl who is an exchange student this year. I don’t have a lot to say about Itchy because she hasn’t been here for a while. But I will tell you this, our girls love Itchy, she loves playing. She spent a lot of time with my wife trying to get everything written out like she wanted to for her senior night tonight. One of the things she shared was being part of this team was something that was very special to her. I am hoping she can take that with her when she goes home. Because she is a great kid.”

“My daughter (Rylee) is a senior on this team. And it is emotional for me. Getting to spend time with Rylee is probably the most important thing for me. I’ve told her, and I’ve told her sister who plays for me in ninth grade, in my opinion I really don’t care if you play a set, don’t care if you play a point, or if you serve, don’t care if you do anything. But when I look down the bench and I see that you are there, it makes me feel better. And both of my girls have embraced that. Rylee has improved a ton. They have embraced that idea that they’re there to help me and that’s a big deal for me.”

Charleston will now have a few days to rest and work on their first round opponent in the district tournament. The Lady Tigers have a bye to the semifinals of the tournament and will not play until Tuesday night. Coach Rachuy will have the opportunity to rest his team before he begins practice for the tournament. With the tournament being in West Fork, there will be factors such as playing team that are fighting for the playoffs and making trips to West Fork to play late games. These factors should be minimized by the experience seniors on this team.

The all district team will be named soon, and Charleston, by virtue of their second place conference finish, will have four spots on the team. Charleston should place four great players on the all district team.

And now, with each senior in possession of a worn out game ball as a trophy to remember their hard work that each invested into the program, they have a reminder of the work still to be finished before they clean out their lockers for the last time. This is a team that has the chance to play in the state finals. The Lady Tigers are just five games away from a trip to Hot Springs. Four wins will get them to the finals. I am guessing this group of seniors will give it everything they have over the next two weeks.

They are a very special group.

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Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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