Tuesday, November 05, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> SH ladies celebrate volleyball landmark

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills volleyball team achieved a landmark accomplishment this season. Last Tuesday the Lady Bears beat Magnolia in the first round of the class 5A state tournament, and it was the first playoff win for the Lady Bears in school history.

Now that the season is over, Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway looks back on it, and has the sincere feeling that his program is making progress towards becoming a solid contender in a sport that has been dominated by the east and west extremes of the state.

Fans approached Treadway late in the season and expressed opinions that the team was getting better and better. Now that the season is over, he finally says he agrees.

“I really do think this team has improved a lot this year,” Treadway said. “We were the lower seed, but I actually felt good about our chances in the first round. That’s taking nothing from Magnolia. I just felt like we were playing really well at the end of the season.”

In the last week of the regular season, Sylvan Hills closed with 3-0 victories over arch rivals North Pulaski and Jacksonville. In the season finale, the Lady Bears beat Conway St. Joe, a No. 1 seed in the 3A state tournament, 3-1.

“In our last three matches, we were 9-1 in games and I’m thinking that’s not bad,” Treadway said. “We always seem to play North Pulaski to five games because that’s such a rivalry, but we blew them out. Then we handled Jacksonville and beat a No. 1 seed, even though it was a lower classification.”

The opening playoff game didn’t start well, and Treadway admitted to wondering if his squad was overwhelmed by the task.

“There have been other years I felt pretty good going in, but we just didn’t rise to the challenge,” Treadway said. “When we lost that first game, I thought I could see it in their eyes and I thought, here we go again. But we huddled after that game. We regrouped and they went out there and played like they’re capable of playing. So it wasn’t just that we won. We faced some adversity. We overcame that history of not playing like we’re capable when we get on that big stage.”

The second-round loss to eventual state champion Paragould wasn’t a matter of not playing up to capabilities. The Lady Rams were better than everyone else this year. In fact, the 5A East put three teams in the semifinals and it was an all East championship match. The two teams ahead of Sylvan Hills in the 5A Central were blown out just as badly as Sylvan Hills in the second round.

“The Jonesboro, Paragould area has had that junior Olympic and club programs established up there for so long,” Treadway said. “The far west is the same way. We’re starting to get that sort of thing established here. And I think you’re going to see teams around here becoming more and more competitive, but it’s going to take a little time.”

Sylvan Hills returns most of its key players, but it was a difficult senior class for Treadway to let go of.

“I told them I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished,” Treadway said. “Ashton (Williams) and Jordie (Flippo) are three-year starters and they came into a tough spot three years ago. Shelby (Simpkins) has worked hard and has really become a good setter for us. I’m going to miss them.”

Even with the loss of three key players, Treadway believes he has the pieces in place to keep improving.

“I’m going to have seven back that played all year long,” Treadway said. “We’ve got some really good athletes on the junior varsity team and we have some ninth-graders moving up next year that are ready to start offseason now. They want to get after it and that’s the thing you need to keep building a program.”