It seems like a long time ago that the Charleston Lady Tigers traveled to Paris to face the defending Class 3A champions. That night, September 5, the Paris Lady Eagles made quick work of Charleston, sweeping the Lady Tigers in an awesome display of power volleyball. That night, Charleston had no answers for the big and imposing front line of Paris. The rematch will be played in Charleston Tuesday night, October 1.
A lot of things have happened since that night in Paris. The Lady Eagles are now 18-1 overall and 8-0 in conference play. In short, it has been Paris and everybody else in the conference. Charleston has not lost a set since that night. The Lady Tigers (11-1, 7-1) are in second place in the district with their only loss being to Paris. Paris suffered their only loss this past weekend in tournament play vs. class 5A Hot Springs Lakeside.
Paris is ranked number one in Arkansas in class 3A, according to Max Preps. Overall, Paris is ranked 10th in Arkansas across all classifications. Charleston will enter the game ranked 6th in class 3A and 27th across all classifications in the state.
This match is important to both schools for different reasons. For Paris, the Lady Eagles want to get back on the winning track and assert their dominance as the conference season winds down and into the district tournament. Barring extraordinary events, the Lady Eagles should be the number one seed in the district tournament and have themselves in a position to be a high seed going into the state tournament. Paris is hosting the first three rounds of the state tournament, and that is a huge advantage to play in front of the home crowd, not to have to travel, and for their players to stay in their routines of sleeping at home and having access to their facilities. An upset loss to Charleston on Tuesday would not end all of this, but it would make things a little more interesting going down to the finish line of the conference season.
For Charleston, this may be the biggest match of its short program history to date. This year’s senior class wants to extend the successes of the past few years and take the program to new heights. In short, if you want to be the man, you have to beat the man. And nobody in the conference so far has found a way to dethrone Paris. An upset win over Paris would bring both schools into a tie in the loss columns in conference play. It would keep Charleston alive for a possible share or outright conference championship. It would virtually assure the Lady Tigers of no less than a two seed in the district tournament, barring a let down against another school in the second half of the conference season. In a big picture sense, it would show the rest of the conference that Paris is beatable; a significant psychological improvement over the feeling of Paris invincibility when teams play Paris.
With just a few weeks remaining before the district tournament, both coaches are working to have their teams playing their best volleyball. As the season progresses, injuries become a factor. Paris is adjusting to injuries over the past week, and this could make the match in Charleston more competitive.
Mix all of this in with the fact that this is an intense rivalry for both schools, no matter what the sport, and it should be a great night of volleyball. For Charleston, they must show up mentally in better shape than when they last played in Paris. For Paris, they must overcome the shock of a surprise loss over the weekend, as well as some key injuries.