Saturday, October 29, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke out in quarterfinals

Leader sports editor

For the second-straight season the Lonoke volleyball team was knocked out of the state tournament by 4A-West powerhouse Mena, this time as tournament hosts at the Gina Cox Center on Wednesday.

The Lady Jackrabbits (35-5-1) fell to the Lady Bearcats 3-0 by scores of 25-16, 25-16, and 25-11. Mena (28-7) moved on to the semifinals to face Brookland on Thursday, a 3-1 winner over defending state champion Shiloh Christian.

The loss was a tough one for a young Lonoke team with an eye on a championship ring, but with a lot of key components returning next year, coach Laura Park is still optimistic about the future.

“I hate that it ended this way,” said Park. “They wanted to win state. They didn’t want the season to end. We had three seniors on the team. Madison McFadden is my starting libero. Sarina Jones and Mary Katherine Summer come off the bench when needed. Those three girls are great leaders on and off the court. They’re a big presence and a great group of girls. We played a lot of tenth graders and juniors. I feel like we should be a lot stronger and more experienced, and these girls want it. With that desire, and if it continues and their work ethic, there will be better things next year.”

Lonoke is very athletic and typically an aggressive volleyball team, but a shaky start hampered that aggressiveness and the Lady Jackrabbits never got fully into their gameplan.

“I think you can want something too much, that you are wound up too tight,” said Lonoke coach Laura Park. “They couldn’t take that breath and step back and get everything under control. We struggled from the beginning instead of starting off aggressive like we normally do.”

Mena won the first point of set one after a long rally, and the score reached 4-0 before the Lady Rabbits got on the scoreboard with consecutive points. Unforced errors and two kills by the Lady Cats upped the lead to 10-3. A net violation by Mena and a block to the floor by Kennedy White cut the lead to 10-5, but again the Lady Cats jumped out to a 17-6 advantage before the Lady Rabbits went on a scoring run on the serves of Lindsey McFadden and Emily Armstrong.

The run included a block by Maddie Pool, three kills by Keiunna Walker, and one by Kaley Woodruff. Lonoke pulled within four at 18-14, but two kills by Jayzlee Bahr and a set-ending ace by Reagan Sikes helped the Lady Cats take the first set 25-16.

The final score of set two was identical to set one, but was much closer until Mena pulled away at the end. Armstrong got the first point of the set for the Lady Rabbits with a kill tip, and the teams exchanged points until Armstrong won a joust at the net to tie the score at 8-8. Walker had a kill to tie at nine, and Lonoke had the lead at 10-9.

Kills by Sydney Hallum and Kayla Shelton, a block by White, and a net violation on Mena made the score 16-15 in favor of the Lady Cats, but Lonoke was only able to score one more point as Mena rallied on the serves of Grace Wagner and Alicia Barrett to finish out the set.

Two kills by Walker and one by White got set three off to a good start for Lonoke, but things then went more the way of Mena. Lonoke was within three at 11-8 on a kill tip by Walker and a kill by Pool, but the Lady Cats went ahead 17-8 on the serve of Sealy Thigpen, and the Lady Rabbits could only score three more points before Mena reached 25 points, and the 25-11 final set victory.