By Kyle Roberts
Friday and Saturday of this past week saw the ninth Bearcat Brawl and showcased the growth and difficulty of the tournament as the Ruston High Lady Bearcats finished 2-3 over the weekend and will now prepare to head to Natchitoches Central for a critical district showdown on Tuesday night.
“The tournament was a huge success,” Ruston High head coach Mandy Cauley said. “We had sixteen teams from across the state with some tough competition. I am very pleased with how we played overall. There were moments that we need to tighten up, but playing at a high level consistently is a learned behavior and we just need to keep playing tough matches as often as possible. We played Dutchtown very well in set one so I was pleased there and taking a set off the other opponents that beat us is still a good step in the right direction.
The Lady Bearcats fell in both Friday matchups to Dutchtown and Ponchatoula before coming out Saturday morning and beating Isadore Newman 25-0 and 25-20 and then Sulphur 25-21 and 25-21.
Ruston dropped a touch match to Notre Dame after winning set one 25-21 before dropping the final two sets.
“The girls were frustrated with the losses Friday evening but came out and played with resilience on Saturday morning,” Cauley said. “There was a special energy in the Newman match. The girls were on fire.”
Senior middle Jade Smith finished the weekend with 40 kills total, including 14 kills against Notre Dame and 11 against Sulphur. Junior Harper Cauley totaled 25 kills, while senior Hannah Rollins finished with 23.
Freshman Baylor Cauley totaled 85 assists, while Rollins totaled 13 blocks for the weekend. Senior Allie Richardson tallied 44 digs for the Lady Bearcats.
Ruston will now head to the road for a Natchitoches Central that will pit two of the top teams to the north of Central Louisiana. Last season, the match came down to the fifth set before the Lady Chiefs pulled away at the end in Ruston’s main gym.
“I believe we are ready,” Cauley said. “We need fans; they will have a loud student section. We are practicing with noise today to simulate the environment. I anticipate an emotionally charged match on both sides on the net.”