It was the battle of the Tigers as the sixth ranked Charleston Lady Tigers hosted the Mansfield Lady Tigers Thursday night at the Charleston gymnasium. Charleston battled to a conference win over Mansfield to improve their record to 5-1 in conference play and 9-1 overall.
Mansfield went after Charleston in the first set and fell just short, 25-20. From that point, Charleston settled down and took advantage of some unforced serving errors by Mansfield. Charleston went on to win the second and third sets. Coach Ryan Rachuy paid respect to the competitiveness and the tradition of the Mansfield volleyball program. “The first set was a little bit rough. Had a few errors, but it came down to Mansfield, came in here and they’re not afraid of anybody. They gave Paris a good run in the first set against them. So, they’re going to come in and swing. Brooke Wright, #17, she hits from every position. Tonight she hit from the outside, she hit from the middle, from the opposite, and she puts balls down. She’s very athletic, gets up really high, blocks the ball really well, and had a number of kills in that first set. She was their main point getter all night long. What we did is we finally settled down and started to find the little spots, had better communication on the court. A few of our girls, Jaydn and Khiley, were communicating with our girls on where the open spots were.”
Mansfield has steadily improved as a team over the course of the season and could be a factor in the district tournament. Mansfield coach Kaylie Pyles has her team on an upward trajectory for not only this year but for next year, as well. When I asked Coach Pyles for her reaction to last night’s match, she said, “I thought we came out strong and competed in the first set. But, we have got to make less errors, consecutive errors, and finish throughout the set. Charleston is always a competitive team and game for us to play. I thought it was a good competitive game going back and forth, we just have to work on our second set. We always come out strong in the first set, and then, depending on how the game goes, we tend to relax in the second set. We really need to work on that. We have improved from the beginning of the season, and I see us continuing to improve with every game like we have been. I believe that our team continues to fight no matter what the outcome of a set or match may be, but, the girls work hard every day and they compete in each game and I think we will continue to do that. I think we will surprise some people in the district tournament.” Coach Pyles went on to mention Charleston hitter Jadyn Womack. “She’s (Womack) a great player. We had issues getting out and getting touches on her. She deserves the credit of being a great player. And that’s what I see and expect from Brooke Wright (Mansfield). She (Wright) has great work ethic, she’ll continue to improve, and be in the gym as much as she can. She is a junior and I think next year she will have an outstanding senior year.”
Charleston faced two regional teams this week in Lavaca and Mansfield who brought their best efforts against Charleston. Charleston responded well and was up to the challenge. “There’s good volleyball all around our state. The history that Mansfield has, the teams that Paris has, this area has really good volleyball. If you don’t play good volleyball you are going to get run out of the gym very quickly. We spotted them four points in the third set again, and I am not happy about that. I feel like we relax a little bit. We have spotted teams this season by two, three, or four points, and we have settled down and played well. We’ve just got to stop those little runs at the beginning of games. Teams like Mansfield, you are just a few mistakes away from losing sets.”
The second half of the conference season starts next Thursday after a Tuesday conference game at Elkins. “We’re trying to push practices a little bit, make them go a little bit harder, and a little bit longer. We are going to be playing some tough teams and tough matches every time. We’ve got to be ready to do that each night.”
At the beginning of the season, I asked Coach Rachuy about his team. He spoke very respectfully and affectionately about each player, particularly his seniors. As the season has progressed it is very apparent that this team is special. Although it may be premature to discuss this team’s accomplishments, it is a point in the season where Charleston fans can reflect on what a special group of girls, particularly the seniors, are on this team. They are having a good season, and if they keep their focus, it could be a historical season for this young program. “Our seniors are coming in, and when they are not playing their best, they are still cheering on the girls out there. They’re trying to keep that family atmosphere, that “we” before “me” attitude. Whoever is on the court are the girls we cheer for. One player can’t hit every ball. One player can’t pass to everybody. One player can’t serve every time. Everybody has got to do their part. I am very proud of our girls, very proud of every one of them.”
Charleston fans, if you have not had a chance to watch this team in action, you need to do so before the season ends. This is truly a very special team that is led by a very special group of seniors.