Volleyball season ended for Lonoke last week in the opening round of the Class 4A State Tournament at Batesville.
Laura Park’s squad, third seed from the 4A-Central, finished 22-5 after a three-set loss to Shiloh Christian, second from the Northwest, which went on to beat Baptist Prep for the state championship.
Shiloh, the 2015 state champion, prevailed over the Lady Rabbits, 26-24, 25-12, 25-16.
“We didn’t play great,” Park said. “We started off playing awesome, but we kept getting judgment calls for a double hit on my setters. That took us out of our game and got in our heads. It was tough.”
Shiloh went on to beat Brookland, the defending state champion, in the quarterfinals in four sets; Central Arkansas Christian, the second seed from the Central, in the semifinals in three; and Baptist Prep, top seed from the Central, in the championship in four.
“They did what they had to do,” Park said of the Lady Saints. “They played well and rose up to the challenge.”
She said she thought the tournament was wide open this year.
“It could’ve been anybody’s, and our conference had four of the strongest teams in the tournament,” Park said. “That was evident with two of them making it to the semifinals, and the other two — us and Southside (Batesville) — could’ve very easily been there also. It was a great tournament for our conference to show we can hang with them.”
A few days after it ended, she said the season was a great one for the Lady Rabbits.
“I had great leadership with all my seniors, and the juniors stepped up when I needed them to fill in in various situations,” she said. “I was very proud of everyone. It was tough in the sense that we weren’t able to play at a high level of competition throughout the season. The inconsistency was our biggest downfall, which is something we have no control over.”
Lonoke swept through 1A-4A District 9 competition 12-0, not losing a set.
“We did our best to play those upper-level teams, the more competitive ones, as often as we could, but with our combined conference, it was almost like we were beating our heads against the wall,” she said. “It was a great season for the girls, but I hated for it to end like it did.”
Nine Lady Rabbits will graduate — middle blocker Ivy Bathrick, middle blocker/outside hitter Kayla Shelton, middle blocker Maddie Pool, setter Caitlyn Dubois, setter Gracie Mason, outside hitter Keiunna Walker, libero Lindsey McFadden, outside hitter Sydney Hallum and middle blocker/outside hitter Kennedy White.
“I’m getting emails and phone calls from college coaches about several of them, so they will have an opportunity to play at the next level,” Park said. “I hope if they have any desire whatsoever that they will pursue it so they don’t look back later and wish they would have. I hope they take advantage of it.”