Wednesday, November 04, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe’s historic season

Leader sports editor

The Beebe volleyball team’s historic season came to an end last week with a quarterfinal round loss to Batesville in the Class 5A state tournament, but it was still a historic season for the Lady Badgers and the seven seniors that led the way.

Beebe was still a fledgling program when those players started playing in the seventh grade, and is now one of the best programs in central Arkansas. That fact was evidenced by the team’s opening win of the season when it beat Little Rock Christian Academy. The Warriors had played in two state championship games in recent years and had never lost to Beebe until this year.

“To go five and beat them in one of our first matches, I think that helped set the tone for the whole season,” said Beebe coach Ashley Camp.

In addition to beating LRCA for the first time in school history, the Lady Badgers also won the team’s first-ever outright conference championship, completed the team’s first undefeated league record and earned the first volleyball playoff win in school history.

Beebe did not lose a non-tournament match all season, and didn’t lose to anyone in Class 5A or below until falling to Batesville last week. All but one of the losses in those tournaments were to 7A teams, but even those losses were good for the team, according to the head coach.

“It just showed us that even though we might not win 7A, even taking a set off them and staying with them gave the girls some encouragement that they were good enough to play with the best the state has to offer.”

The Lady Badgers rolled through the 5A-Central Con-ference undefeated, sweeping perennial contender Pulaski Academy twice, and not losing a set in league play until the finale against North Pulaski.

The match against NP came on the heels of the team’s lowest point. Beebe went to a late-season tournament in Conway and performed badly, but took that tournament as a wake-up call and responded well.

“Every team hits that burnout stage,” Camp said. “I don’t know if we were burned out or just tired. We had been going twice a week and sometimes three. Of course, I tell them there’s no excuses, but I think that was part of it. It was a learning experience. We had a team meeting about it and the experienced ones stepped up. They worked through it and we were able to bounce back from it.”

After losing game two to North Pulaski, Beebe routed Harding Academy in the regular-season finale and performed as well as it has all season in the state tournament.

“I think the Harding Academy game and the first two matches of state was our peaking point,” Camp said. “I’ve never seen them play so hard. They were loud. Communication was great. They were so focused on everything that was going on.”

Beebe lost 3-1 to the Pioneers, but it was nothing like its first-round loss to the same team in the first round of state the year before. In that game, Beebe was routed 3-0 and was not very competitive after the midway point of game one.

“When you take into consideration the year before when we were like deer in headlights, we were a totally different team this time around,” Camp said. “There was no loss of focus, no poor me going on. Even when they had 24 in game four, the girls were still fighting. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

Five of the seven seniors started and all seven played considerable minutes and were key clogs in the team’s success. Camp is confident in the talent that’s returning, but says leadership will be a question mark entering next season.

“Sarah Clark and Paige Smith were big vocal leaders for us on the floor,” Camp said of her senior setter and libero. “Jerra Malone was a valuable quiet leader. She led by example on the floor. Shayla Devore gave a lot of encouragement, always up and always positive. We’ll definitely be looking for people to fill those roles.”