Central Arkansas Christian clinched the outright 4A-Central volleyball title last week, but Cade Smith’s Lady Mustangs stumbled at Marianna to lose their final conference match.

Still, CAC entered this week’s district tournament at Maumelle 17-5 overall and the top seed after finishing the conference schedule 12-2 with one loss at Maumelle and another at Marianna. The Lady Mustangs earned a bye to Tuesday’s district semifinals against the winner of Monday’s first match between Batesville Southside and Clinton.

Because the top four teams from each conference advance to the Class 4A State Tournament in Harrison Oct. 30-Nov. 1, the Lady Mustangs are assured of another state tournament appearance.

The district final is set for today.

CAC has rolled nicely this year since dropping from Class 5A.

"It’s a situation we haven’t been in in a few years," Smith said. "We’ve been winning a lot, and with that comes challenges in the way you play. We get everybody’s best effort every time they play us. That’s a good challenge to have, but still, it’s something you have to deal with.

"Our basketball girls deal with it all the time. We get everybody’s best effort because we’ve had some success for several years, and it’s hitting us in volleyball this year. It’s a good thing, but you’ve got to deal with it and win the ones you’re supposed to."

He said Marianna "wore us out."

Still, he said the late loss — CAC hadn’t lost a best-of-five match since Sept. 13 at Maumelle — could turn out to be good for the Lady Mustangs as they head into the post-season.

"We didn’t practice well the day before; we had some sick, and we’ve got to figure out how to travel and play better," Smith said. "It was a rather hostile environment."