Wednesday, October 18, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rabs coast into 4A playoffs

Leader sports editor

Not a lot of effort was required for the Lady Jackrabbits to qualify for the Class 4A state tournament on Monday, but that wasn’t the goal going into the 4A-Central Conference tournament at Heber Springs.

All Lonoke had to do to qualify for state was beat Helena-West Helena Central for the fourth time this season. That was done in short order. The Lady Jackrabbits swept the Lady Cougars 3-0, with scores of 25-9, 25-8 and 25-4.

Lonoke coach Laura Park substituted nearly everyone with her team leading 15-1 in game three. She left Maddie Pool on the floor to serve, but she came out at 18-1 as well.

Lonoke entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed after sweeping through the Class 1A-4A District 9blended conference without losing a single set all season. Central (7-11 overall) got the eight seed despite going 5-9 in league play.

Teams from two other districts, 7 and 8, are also in the 4A-Central, and those leagues are a bit tougher that District 9. Lonoke, however, had also beaten every team it had played from those leagues, including third and fourth seeded Baptist Prep and Central Arkansas Christian. Lonoke has not faced second-seeded Southside-Batesville.

In Monday’s matchup, unforced Lonoke errors were almost the only way Central could score. In game one, seven of the Lady Cougars’ nine points came off missed serves by Lonoke.

There were, however, also 11 Lonoke aces. In game two, the aces were down to 10, but the missed serves were cut to just two. Emily Armstrong served the Lady Jackrabbits out to a 12-0 lead to start the second set. She dropped in eight aces while Keiunna Walker added two kills, Kennedy White had one and Central swung wide on its lone kill attempt.

The Cougars finally broke serve when Walker’s kill attempt hit the net.

Game three started similarly to game two. A Walker kill broke serve to start the game, and Armstrong served 13 in a row before Central could break back.

Three-straight aces took it from 7-0 to 10-0. An alignment violation on the Cougars made it 11-0. Two more aces followed another kill by Walker for a 14-0 before Central got its second and last kill of the match to stop the bleeding.

The Lady Jackrabbits (25-5-3) finished with 30 aces. Armstrong served up 16 of them. Other statistics were in short number. The Lady Cougars didn’t get the ball back over the net until the ninth point of game one, and only managed two service returns the entire first game.

They managed to get it back eight times in game two and 10 times in game three.

Monday’s win guarantees Lonoke a spot in today’s final round.

The game to determine the three and four seeds in the Class 4A state tournament will begin at 4:30 p.m. The tournament championship is set for 6:30 p.m. at Heber Springs High School.