SPORTS>>Lady Bears take top seed into state tourney
The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears went undefeated on their way to winning the 5A-East Conference championship. They took a 10-7 overall record and a 10-0 conference record to earn the No. 1 seed for next week’s 5A state tournament at Wynne. They will take on East No.4 seed Paragould at noon Wednesday.
The Lady Bears had lost to league foe Mills, but the Lady Comets were forced to give up a number of match wins due to having an ineligible player for the first half of the conference season. Sylvan Hills, along with North Pulaski, were both given wins over Mills, who had gone 5-0 up to that point.
The rematch against Mills was the Lady Bears’ chance to prove they deserved the crown, and they didn’t disappoint in a 3-0 sweep, including a blistering 25-5 clubbing in Game 1.
“I didn’t tell the girls that we had been given that win back,” Lady Bears coach Harold Treadway said. “I wanted them to go in there thinking that we still needed that win. We probably went out there and played the best we have all year.”
Sylvan Hills’ closest competition for the title down the stretch was North Pulaski, with the second meeting between the two teams to be played at the Falcons’ Nest. The Lady Falcons had suffered their second setback to Mills, which made it impossible for them to overtake SH for the title even with a win, but once again, it was information they would find out after the fact.
“I already had the championship plaque in my bag,” Treadway said. “We had a little bit of luck with our conference season, but we were very pleased with how things turned out.”
Senior leadership has made the difference down the stretch for the Lady Bears. Senior hitter Courtney Luth and middle blocker Kaci Willis performed consistently during the conference season. Treadway also praised Ashley Johnson, setter Nicole Goff and
Brooke Hoffman for their performance throughout the year.
“Lately everyone on the team has been playing really consistent,” Treadway said. “Brooke and Kaci went in and took over during that final match with North Pulaski.”
The Lady Bears went into last year’s tournament at Benton as a highly-touted No. 2 seed, but came home much sooner than expected with a crushing loss to Texarkana in straight games. Treadway doesn’t seem to think that same letdown will occur this year, but he is weary of the Lady Rams.
“My first comment to them at the first practice this year was how long of an off-season it had been for me, because it ended on such a bitter note,” Treadway said. “We didn’t play well, and I mean it was a total team effort to play that badly. I think that was a lesson to everyone not to go in thinking you have it all wrapped up because you’re the top seed. We have three seniors that played quite a bit of varsity last year, and I think they will pick it up some to avoid having to going through that again.”
The North Pulaski Lady Falcons finished second in the 5A-Southeast Conference. They will face East No. 3 seed Greene County Tech in the first round at 6 p.m.
The No. 3 Beebe Lady Badgers will take on host Wynne, the runners-up out of the 5A-East, on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils squeaked into the postseason with a No. 5 seeding out of the 6A-East Conference. The Lady Red Devils now sit at 10-11, and finished their East campaign 5-7.
They will play South No. 4 seed Sheridan on Tuesday at noon in Mountain Home in the first round of the 6A state tournament.
It is a respectable showing for a team and coach still adjusting to each other. Head Lady Devil Justine Rial is not even a complete year out of college herself, and is leading Jacksonville to its second consecutive playoff appearance in only her first season as a coach and administrator.
“It’s been overwhelming at times,” Rial said. “And there are some things that I would do differently. I don’t think I would get an ‘A,’ but I don’t think I would get an ‘F’ either. Everything has gotten better from the beginning of the year up to now, every aspect of it.”
Jacksonville is led up front by junior all-sport threat Jessica Lanier, along with seniors Tyra Terry and Paula Burr. Bailee Herlacher starts at setter for the Lady Red Devils, with help from Chastity Robinson. Senior libero Raven Pickett leads the defensive backcourt for the Lady Red Devils.
“I think us not having a match until Tuesday will help us,” said Rial, whose Lady Devils had to finish the season with series of long-distance road matches. “I think we can be really good. We have good potential, and most of the teams in this tournament are very beatable.
The Cabot Lady Panthers finished with a 9-5 record in the 7A-Central Conference, enough to clinch the No. 5 seed for Next Week’s 7A state tournament at Springdale Har-Ber. Cabot will take on West No. 5 seed Fayetteville at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The winner of that match will face West Conference champs Bentonville, which received a first round bye. The finals for the 7A state tournament will be held at Conway on Saturday at 11 a.m.
The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits are the No. 4 seed out of the 4A-Central region. The Lady ’Rabbits will play Northwest No. 1 seed Shiloh Christian on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the first round of the 4A State tournament at Westside Consolidated.