It’s another week and another road game for the Lady Tigers volleyball team. Charleston (10-1, 6-1) traveled to Elkins and defeated the Lady Elks 3-0. The Lady Tigers entered the week ranked fifth in Arkansas in class 3A, and 25th overall across all classifications in Arkansas by Max Preps.
The Lady Tigers traveled to Northwest Arkansas to pick-up an important conference win to end the first half of the conference season. As the grind of the season becomes apparent, the Lady Tigers senior leadership once again played an important role in keeping the team focused on the opponent across the net.
Charleston has not lost a single set since September 6 at Paris. And last night, playing away from home during the school week, playing in front of a sparse crowd, and once again, playing a team that was coming after Charleston, the Lady Tigers dug in and did whatever it took to win the match. Charleston coach Ryan Rachuy was proud of his team. “It’s always good to win on the road. Elkins had a couple of their players out tonight. Second set, they came out (Elkins) and they didn’t back down. They gave Paris a good first set when they played Paris, and they have athletes, they’re athletic, they swing hard, and they get the ball down. Tonight, we were a little more consistent in the third set. Stayed on top of it, tried to get our passes up. Struggled in the second set, but I think our girls buckled down and did what was necessary to get the win in the second set. In the third set you could tell, Coach Rainwater talked to them for a second or two and made sure they understood the situation they were in and they came out a lot stronger. We didn’t finish strong, we gave up like four points there at the end of the third set, but, we got the “W” on the road, an hour and a half drive, and was a good “W” to get.”
The Lady Tigers have struggled a little this season with the tendency of playing well in the first two sets and experiencing let downs or slow starts in the third. On Tuesday night, Charleston’s start to the third set was noticeably stronger against Elkins. “We’re trying to make it so that as the game gets longer we are getting stronger. We try to push. We try to push the pace in our practices. I’m trying to get better. I have to improve every year. I write down a list every year of things that I have to improve in as a coach. If I am not improving, I can’t expect them to improve as players. If I’m not doing my job and trying to get better at my job, then I can’t expect them to get better at their jobs. So, one of those things is less down time. If we are going to go get a drink (in practice) then we are going to go get a drink and we get back on the court and get back to work. In games like this where you are in the third set, second set, you need to go out and start playing the volleyball you are capable of playing.”
The second half of the conference season begins Thursday night in Charleston as the Lady Tigers have a rematch with the Booneville Lady Bearcats. Coach Rachuy is expecting Booneville’s best effort in the return match with Charleston. “I think we went to their place (Booneville) on a mission. And I am expecting Coach West (Booneville) and those girls to come to our place and be on that same mission that we were on. When we went to their place we were expecting a dog fight and we went out there and we played really well. What we have to do is be aggressive, be on the top of our game, and go out there with the same mentality that we did when we went to their place.”
Charleston enters the second half of the conference season with just one conference loss and in second place. The significance of the second half of the round-robin conference schedule is the opportunity for the Lady Tigers to take an increased lead in the number of games between them and the rest of the conference as they move toward the district tournament and compete for seeding in the tournament. A second place or better finish in conference play would guarantee the Lady Tigers a birth in the state tournament. Charleston’s senior players will be focused on not having any letdowns in intensity or preparation for each remaining conference game.