Central Arkansas Christian, the top seed from the 4A-Central, opened the Class 4A State Volleyball Tournament at Mena on Tuesday against Newport, the fourth seed from the Northeast.
A win would put Ken Roberts’ Lady Mustangs (18-3) into Wednesday’s 6 p.m. quarterfinal against the survivor of the first-round match between Waldron, second seed from the West, and Farmington, No. 3 from the Northwest.
After winning the 4A-Central conference race and entering as the top seed in the 4A-Central District Tournament last week, the Lady Mustangs had a bye to the semifinals where they knocked off the host team, Lonoke, in straight sets, 25-9, 25-14, 25-16, and then took four to beat Southside Batesville — the only team to beat them in conference play — 25-21, 25-15, 21-25, 25-21 in the championship.
Roberts, the first-year varsity CAC coach, said Sunday he knew little about the Lady Mustangs’ potential state tournament opponents.
"One of the things about coming in coaching new this year is I don’t have any connections to find out about anybody yet," he said. "But we know that the northeast is usually pretty strong, so we’re expecting (Newport) to give us a good game.
"I just hope that the girls play with the intensity that they did in the district tournament, especially against Lonoke. It was in their gym, and they’d taken us to five games the first time we played. That first game (in the district semis) was the best we’ve played all year.
"If we can come out like that in the state tournament, I feel good about our chances."
The survivor of that quarter of the bracket will advance to Thursday’s 6 p.m. semifinal against the last one standing among Valley View, No. 1 from the Northeast; Lonoke, fourth from the Central; Pea Ridge, second from the Northwest; and Booneville, third from the West.
The top half of the bracket features Berryville, winner of the Northwest, against Arkadelphia, fourth from the West; Jonesboro Westside, second from the Northeast; against Marianna Lee, third from the Central; Mena, winner of the West, against Gravette, fourth from the Northwest; and Southside Batesville, second from the Central, against Brookland, third from the Northeast.
The Class 4A state championship will be at Russellville at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Roberts said Sunday he hoped his team was peaking just in time.
"We’ve got some sickness going on, so I hope everybody will be healed up by Tuesday," he said. "We had one miss a day and one who didn’t make it all the way through a practice. We’re hoping it will all be out of their systems over the weekend."
He said Southside gave the Lady Mustangs a good test in the district championship.
"But the girls came out motivated," he said. "We had a little lapse in the third game, but I think we relaxed a little after we won two straight. We went back to work and won in four and came from behind to win the fourth. I was proud of their effort."
CAC lost to Malvern in four games last year in the opening round of the state tournament.