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Mansfield wins first volleyball state title

Mansfield volleyball

Mansfield players celebrate after winning 3A state title on Saturday. (Photo by Chris Graddy)

JONESBORO — After a disappointing loss to Lavaca in last year’s 3A state title game, the Mansfield Lady Tigers were bound and determined to get back to the championship match. However, this year they were going to win it.

A 25-17, 25-11, 21-25, 25-21 victory over St. Joseph’s-Conway on Saturday at the ASU Convocation Center fulfilled the Lady Tigers’ goal and gave them their first-ever volleyball title.

Winning three consecutive indoor and outdoor track titles, the volleyball title was especially welcome for four seniors who also compete in track.

“After last year, this means everything,” tournament MVP senior Cheyenne Derr said. “We should have taken it last year and were more determined to win it this year.”

Last season, Mansfield had beaten Lavaca two times in the regular season and then in the district tournament so the four-set loss was a total disappointment. That defeat made the Lady Tigers come into the season with a purpose.

Mansfield volleyball

Mansfield's Jessica Otto (right) attempts to send a kill by St. Joseph defender Courtney Briggler during Saturday's 3A state title game. (Photo by Chris Graddy)

“We wanted it so bad last year,” senior setter Sarah Mathis, with her voice cracking, said. “To come back and win it, it feels so good.

The Lady Tigers struggled for a bit in the first set and trailed for a short while before taking it 25-17. They dominated the second one, and then lost the third one.

“We didn’t play as much as a team,” Derr said. “We brought it around once we played as a team.”

The fourth set was back and fourth until Mansfield took over at the end and decided it wanted a state title. Derr led the Lady Tigers with 33 kills and senior Jessica Otto chipped in 19. Mathis had 31 assists with junior Lyndelle Martin adding 17. Junior libero Cheyenne Epperson had nine digs.

“(In the fourth game) We kept telling ourselves we had to focus,” senior Savanna Colbert said. “We kept pushing and did.”

At the beginning of the season, Otto said the Lady Tigers walked into the gym thinking about last year’s loss. They decided their focus was on winning a state title. Coach Brent Reeves has guided three state runner-up teams—in 1995, 1998 and last year. Many don’t know he coached Mansfield until 1998 and then went to Thailand on a missionary trip for six years. When he came back, he was assistant coach before becoming the head coach again three years ago.

“We’ve been so close a few times, it’s so good to win one,” Reeves said. “I’m as proud of the girls as I can be. They been playing since they were 10th graders and to see them win a championship means a lot. I hate individual awards because it took everyone to win this.”

article updated on 11/25/09 18:45

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