As high school students went back to school across Arkansas, the Paris Lady Eagles volleyball team went on the road to play Class 4A Farmington in the season opener for both schools. The game was played on August 24 which was supposed to be 11 days after the start of classes for the new school year. With the delayed opening of school this year, the Lady Eagles found themselves playing away from home on the first day of classes.
This year’s Paris volleyball team may be one of the youngest and inexperienced teams in recent memory. Although it is a team with great talent throughout the roster, it is a team that has not had much opportunity to play together on the senior high level. Many sophomores on the team played their very first high school game last evening. Add to this the abbreviated spring and summer practices that were available due to the COVID pandemic, and you have a Lady Eagles team that will be learning by on-the-job experience throughout the early weeks of the season. But also for Paris and other teams in their district, there is not much time to gel as a team. In fact, the Charleston Lady Tigers come calling tonight in just the second day of school, and already, the first conference match-up of the season.
Paris defeated Farmington in three straight sets to win the match 3-0. To the honest observer, a win, is a win, is a win….but…it was not, what shall we say, a match for the ages. Perhaps as a sign of the lack of preparation time that all teams have suffered through across the state, the quality of play was not that impressive. The young Lady Eagles showed flashes of what they will soon become…but early on, this group of young, talented players will need everyone’s patience as they just need court time to play together and develop the team chemistry they will have to have for the state playoffs.
Paris coach Jordan Devine was happy to get a road win against a Class 4A opponent on Monday night, and indicated that it was good for this young team to win their first time out, especially on the road. Coach Devine said the Lady Eagles were a little sloppy, but the win was a win, and the team knows going forward what they need to fix and focus on as they move through the schedule.
But there is no time to rest and evaluate corrections that need to be made. Paris, on 24 hours rest, will host Charleston coach Ryan Rachuy and the Charleston Lady Tigers. Coach Rachuy has rapidly built a contending volleyball program at the state level, and his Lady Tigers will be primed tonight when they enter Paris Gymnasium. Both Charleston and Paris lost several seniors to graduation in 2019, but much talent remains on both squads. And of course, anytime Paris and Charleston get together, regardless of the sport, you know it will be a fun and highly competitive night.
Last year’s regular season series between Paris and Charleston had a little bit of everything. The Lady Eagles won the first match in Paris in dominating fashion. The return match in Charleston was perhaps one of the greatest high school matches in recent history. In a back and forth match, the Lady Eagles hung on in a fifth and deciding set that saw Paris come back from a large deficit in the fifth set to pull out the victory. In the district tournament, the Lady Eagles defeated Charleston for a third time; the three losses to Paris being the only regular season losses for Charleston. Tonight, the Lady Tigers will be ready for the young Lady Eagles, and Paris has to put the trip to Farmington behind them quickly and be ready to play tonight.
First match begins at 4 p.m. this afternoon. Tickets for tonight’s match can be obtained in the Paris school district office. All fans must have an advanced ticket before paying at the gate. Face masks, social distancing, and other Arkansas Department of Health regulations will be in effect.
So tonight is game two of a grueling three match week for the Lady Tigers. On Thursday, Paris will again go on the road to play at Fort Smith Southside. But for now, the match that is most critical is the conference match-up with Charleston. Resident Press will be there to catch all of the action. Look for a game recap of the Charleston match on Wednesday afternoon.
See you tonight!