After two consecutive road games to open the 2019 volleyball season, the Charleston Lady Tigers hosted Huntsville on Thursday. The two teams played last year at Huntsville where the Lady Eagles defeated Charleston. Charleston returned the favor last evening with a 3-0 sweep of the Lady Eagles.
Charleston made short work of the 4A Lady Eagles by winning in straight sets. For the third consecutive match in the first week of the season, Charleston won without dropping a set. The Lady Tigers have yet to lose a single set this season.
Tonight’s win culminated a successful opening week capped off by a home win. Coach Rachuy was happy with his team’s open to the 2019 season. “Ozark did us some good. The environment was really hostile, a great fan base there, great student section there. We got used to that and tonight we came out and played and I thought the girls came out with a purpose tonight. I think they really wanted to improve and kind of redeem themselves from how we played when we were up there last year. Huntsville plays in a super hard 4A conference, but our girls came out with a purpose and a direction. The attitude was really great, the energy was really great. When you get leads, sometimes it gets tough. But our girls kind of hung in and kept doing the work. You’ve got to keep grinding, and that’s what they did tonight. I was pretty happy with that.”
Tonight was also the second consecutive in as many matches for the junior A team to sweep their matches. With wins over Ozark and now Huntsville, the junior high team continues to improve and show its potential. Rachuy said, “We still have a lot of work to do with junior high, we really do. I think we have some advantages, we have some positives, we’ve got good size in junior high. We’ve got girls who are learning to do the right things technically. Also, our JV tonight, I think our JV did a great job. They battled in the second set, made it tough. But they overcame some mistakes, we got the ball to the girls who are going to get us the points, and that’s good decision making on the setters’ point, and that’s execution on our hitters to take that responsibility and get it down and we’re going to get that save back.”
In addition to the Lady Tigers great play is their on and off the court personalities. Charleston appears to be very confident on the court, perhaps a product of the senior leadership on the team. The Lady Tigers seem to be a pretty loose group on the court. When asked if that was a product of the senior leadership on the team, Rachuy replied, “I believe so. I think our seniors want to impart an environment of fun. They want to impart an environment of family and enjoyment, but there is also a culture here of responsibility. I think our seniors are really up on that. It’s not just about what you are doing. It’s not just about your time on the court, your sets, your touches. It’s about are we getting a “W” at the end of the day. I’ve got a lot of girls that are starting to understand that, and that’s a great thing.”
After the Labor Day weekend, Charleston will enter conference play next week with tough matches at Booneville and defending Class 3A state champion Paris. “I have all of the respect in the world for Booneville. Losing their middle from last year was their big point getter. She was in the top ten, top five in the state in kills and kill percentage. She was all over the place and did a really great job for them. Losing that is going to be tough, but, they’ve got some girls there that are explosive. They’re not the biggest, but they are explosive. They want to go up and get the ball and they want to put the ball down. So, you’ve got to be ready for them. You can’t take Booneville lightly in any thing.”
The second game of next week will be played on Thursday, September 5 at Paris against the defending state champions. “You’re not four time state champions for no reason. Coach Divine has a great program there. She has got terrific players. I believe she is really strong on the outside. She’s really savvy in the middle, and then she has a couple of girls hitting on the opposite, that may not get the majority of the hits, but they’re going to swing.”
As the conference season begins, teams are playing for not only a conference title, but for seedings in the all important district tournament that is the pathway to the state championship tournament. In a year where only three teams will earn the right to advance to the state tournament from the district tournament, seedings from the regular season to have the most advantageous brackets in the district tournament become crucial. “We want to get a good seed in the district tournament, and we want to be able to position ourselves so that we have a good chance to advance to the state tournament. That’s still our goal. We want to get there, and once we get there, give a volleyball clinic.”
Next week could be one of the most important weeks in the short history of the Charleston program. With its senior leadership, the team is in the position to take major steps toward their season goals of qualifying and advancing in the state tournament. The Lady Tigers need their fans to travel next week and support the girls in crucial conference matches at Booneville and Paris.
It should be a great week of high school volleyball!