Perhaps a trip to the 5A state softball tournament will mean more to the North Pulaski Falcons next year.

The Falcons, who finished 10-6 overall and 10-4 in the 5A-Central, were the third seed and advanced to the state tournament for the first time in many years. However, three girls were missing, and Coach Jack Casey could tell his girls were occupied during the contest. The result was a 15-0 loss to Vilonia in the first round. North Pulaski didn’t get one base hit or have one base runner. Casey said Vilonia’s pitcher had something to do with it, as she was tremendous. Vilonia was eliminated in the semifinals by White Hall.

"It was bittersweet, and I don’t think they understand what they did," Casey said. "It’s been a long time since we’ve been to state, and it was a big deal."

Three starters missed the game to take AP tests. However, a different date was made available for the tests, but the girls didn’t like that date. Casey also said he could tell some of the girls were more focused on getting back in time for the athletic banquet that night (May 9) as they were talking among themselves about making it in time.

"We just weren’t focused," Casey said. "I was talking to the Vilonia coach about missing three girls. She said oh my gosh if we make the finals, some of our girls will miss graduation."

In the future, Casey hopes his players develop a mentality like that of Vilonia or other teams North Pulaski saw. He pointed out to them that other teams would have enjoyed being there, and that making state was an accomplishment.

Hopes are high for next season as the Falcons lose five seniors but only two of them started. Casey will be ahead of the game next season, too. This was his first year as the softball coach, and he spent the first part of the year trying to figure out his personnel.

"I didn’t know a lot about the players and didn’t know where they needed to play," Casey said. "It took several games to feel them out. Now, I know who will play where. I didn’t have a clue so that will help."

This season everything fell into place for the Falcons to make state. Casey says making state next year will be the goal right off the bat.