Little Rock Central put on a volleyball clinic on serving, setting, hitting and defense Monday at Wildcat Arena. The Lady Tigers handed El Dorado a 3-0 defeat, 25-8, 25-16, 25-7.
Despite the loss, the Lady Wildcats displayed improved play from recent years and against top-notch competition.
“That’s a good team. That’s a state championship contender in 6A,” El Dorado coach Derek Easter said of Central. “That’s what we needed going into Lakeside (Tuesday).
“We played with a lot of energy. Great serves, we had some great hits. They’re a good defensive team. That’s what we strive to be. We want to be that type of team where we’re getting those balls up and things of that sort.”
The Lady Wildcats never led in the first game. The second game, however, was more competitive. Central led 7-3 before El Dorado got tougher at the net. Kaycee Otwell served an ace to cut the lead to 8-6. The Lady Tigers scored the next point before El Dorado tallied three in a row on kills by Otwell and London Ingram and a hitting error by Central, which tied the set at 9-9.
The Lady Wildcats never could grab the lead, however. The score was 10-10 before Central scored eight of the next 10 points.
A lot of the damage came off the service of Mackenzie Whisnant, who found a soft spot in El Dorado’s frontcourt, just over the net.
El Dorado pulled to within 19-14 after an ace by Mallory Whitten but Central was too strong down the stretch. El Dorado’s Davin James was denied by a double block at the net on set point.
The third set was all Central, which jumped out to a 14-3 advantage. The Lady Tigers ended the match with a wild sequence of defensive saves, punctuated by a backward bump over the net which found the floor in El Dorado’s backcourt.
Central’s size and collection of hitters proved dominant at the net. But, it was probably the serving and El Dorado’s struggles in returning serve that was the biggest difference in the two teams.
“Mostly, they changed up their serves. They would come with speed and then they would go off-speed. Those off-speed serves kind of messed us up with our timing. We would get those one touches and it was going back over,” said Easter. “But for the most part, I felt, especially in that second set, we really battled.
“I think we did a lot of things as far as playing together. Even when the times got tough and we were down by a lot of points in that third set, I don’t think anybody gave up. That was a breath of fresh air to see that, especially after some of the things we saw last year. The kids did amazing as far as their energy, their effort. They threw every punch they could to try to win that game.”
Central improved to 3-0 while El Dorado fell to 0-3.
Kamya Bryant led the Lady Wildcats with three kills. James, Whitten and Laila Reynolds had two kills apiece.
El Dorado opened league play Tuesday at conference favorite Hot Springs Lakeside.
“We’re going to stay the course. We’re going to keep fighting, keep on getting better,” said Easter. “This is only our third game. We still have a lot of growth. If we continue to grow at the rate we’re growing, we’re going to be in the state tournament at the end of the season.”