Varsity Volleyball Ends Season in State Finals


Haley Richmond

Gabriela DuPree serves the ball at the rivalry Southside v. Northside game.

Ella McEntire, Co-Newspaper Editor

On October 29, the monumental season for the Lady Mavericks volleyball team came to a close with a 6A Arkansas State Runner-Up Title. This state tournament finals match against the nationally ranked Fayetteville Bulldogs ended in a three-set loss. However, this second-place ending does not reflect the winning season the Mavs put up this year.

“This was a great season. We stayed competitive, scrappy, and gritty. We held up and even beat teams that were deemed impossible. We went to the state finals! Even though we ended with a loss, it was still a win in my book,” senior defensive specialist Sariana Teffs said.

This impressive season started with benefit games and scrimmage nights and quickly moved into regular season matches. Throughout the beginning of the season, the Mavs played in two team camps in Greenwood and Har-Ber.

“Camps are essential for teams to bond because it helps girls understand each other and that everyone has the same goal, and that is to grow and get better as a team,” junior outside hitter Reyleigh Twist said.

To further bring the team together, fun activities are incorporated within practices to build relationships between the teammates. These included “family style” tournaments where players dress to fit a theme, games with assigned “dynamic duos,” and other engaging contests that grow both skills and friendships. Team bonding occurred off the court as well, with Head Coach Natalie Throneberry hosting an outdoor movie night for the girls in the summer. The team also spent time on long bus rides to away games throughout the season.

“I feel like all of the bus rides we went on really contributed to our team’s chemistry and bonding. Especially on the way to state because we didn’t have our phones so we were really able to talk to each other and get to know one another,” sophomore opposite hitter Meg Lux said.

Within the first week of conference play, the team traveled to Little Rock to compete in the Spikefest Tournament. The Mavs finished second in the gold division, falling to a strong Baptist Prep team in the finals. Following this tournament, the girls played in two more tournaments to gain more experience with tougher teams. These team-building competitions allowed for Silver Champions and Gold Runner-Up titles to be brought home. 

“It’s very fun to stay in the hotel rooms with your friends and you get a lot of bonding there,” sophomore middle blocker Lydia Pitts said about her favorite part of tournaments. Pitts was also selected for the Springfield Classic All-Tournament Team.

With conference play quickly running its course, one match against Bentonville West on September 26 stood out as a team favorite. The girls fought for a reverse sweep over the Tigers and battled for the tough win. 

“It was a really intense game that kept everyone on their toes. They had us in the first two sets then we beat them in the last three. It was just really fun to beat them because they expected to win after they had beaten us in the first two sets, but we didn’t let it happen,” sophomore defensive specialist Jaclyn Evans said.

To solidify their spot as conference play runner-ups, the girls took on their second match-up against their rivals: the Northside Grizzlies. After defeating them with a 3-1 win, the Mavs finished the Battle of Rogers Avenue at the Northside Arena with a 3-0 sweep. This match sent Southside to the state tournament on a high note with a 0.310 team-hitting percentage and 13 aces over the Lady Bears.

“I could remember all the people in the arena cheering from our town. Winning that game on their home court was unimaginable. I can’t begin to explain the feeling of the ending game huddle and cheering with the coaches in the locker room,” junior middle and opposite hitter Anna Durham said. “We felt closer than ever because Northside was a good competitor.”

Going into the state tournament as a two-seed gave the girls a bye to the quarterfinals to play a first match against Central High School. The morning of the match, Southside students gathered in the hallways and around the outside of the school building to send their team off to Rogers with spirit and pride.

“I feel like the team loved knowing that we had the school behind us, seeing how far we had gotten when no one thought we would get anywhere close,” senior libero Tinsley Freeman said.

The Mavs moved through the Central Tigers and the Conway Wampus Cats on October 26 and 27 to prove they are entitled to a place in the state finals. The team put up one of the strongest fights of the season so far against Conway, with senior and sophomore setters Meadors and Neal putting up 16 assists and sophomore outside hitter Gabriela DuPree delivering 11 digs. The sweep over the Wampus Cats ended in an emotional moment between the team, with players storming the court and celebrating after the big win.

“It honestly felt so surreal. We worked so hard and knew what it was going to take for us to win that game. I remember us the night before the game we stayed late and watched film and I think that is a prime example of putting in extra work to get to our goals as a team,” junior middle blocker Ruby McGruder said.

This impressive season came to an end in the state finals in Hot Springs falling to the number one seed Fayetteville Bulldogs with a score of 0 sets to 3. While this finish didn’t meet the aspirations of the team, the girls left their all on the court and took the experience as one to remember.

“I was in complete shock when we secured a spot in the state finals. I knew our competition was going to be tough but I knew no matter the outcome the year would have a great ending,” Neal said. 

Despite the Bulldog’s sweep over the Mavs, the two teams played a very close match and made for an interesting game. Freeman put up 13 digs for her final match and junior middle blocker Sophia Neihouse maintained a strong 0.450 hitting percentage. Overall, the Mavs averaged 14.7 digs per set and 22 assists on the match. 

“With a team like Fayetteville, all you can really ask for is giving your best, and I think every single person on the court and on the bench did just that,” Meadors said.

Players worked hard to reach many feats this season and show their skills on the court, earning the following post-season honors:

  • All-State Tournament: Gabriela DuPree, Lydia Pitts, and Sophia Neihouse
  • 6A West All-Conference: Lydia Pitts, Sophia Neihouse, Tinsley Freeman, and Kennedy Meadors
  • AVCA Best and Brightest First Team: Kennedy Meadors
  • AVCA Region 4 All Region: Tinsley Freeman
  • All-River Valley Democratic Gazette Team: Gabriela Dupree, Sophia Neihouse, and Tinsley Freeman
  • All-River Valley DG Player of the Year: Lydia Pitts
  • All- River Valley DG Coach of the Year: Coach Natalie Throneberry
  • All Arkansas Preps Freshman/Sophomore Team: Lydia Pitts

In addition to these awards, the girls pushed themselves in the classroom, finishing the season with a team GPA of 3.70.

This young team’s performance throughout the season and the state tournament brings hope and excitement to the members and supporters of the Southside volleyball program for the future seasons to come. The Mavs are now focusing on looking forward to the goal of bringing home a state championship next year and ultimately becoming better volleyball players.

“The good news about athletics is you should prepare every year like you’re going to the state championship, no matter what. I feel like the pressure is not to get to that game, the pressure is to just be a better athlete than you were the day before. So, if we focus on continuing to get better every day and playing at 110%, which is one of our goals, the rest will come out in the wash,” Coach Throneberry said.