Conway’s volleyball program is considered to be one of the state’s powerhouses.
The Lady Cats have won all but one conference championship since 1994, and that was in 2006. Conway has been the state runner-up three times, with 1994, 1995 and 2002, and the Lady Cats added a state title in 1998.
This season, Conway coach Laura Crow hopes her Lady Cats can continue the school’s thick tradition of winning championships. Crow has captured six of those conference championships in her seven years as the head coach of Conway.
"I think it is important for the girls to walk into our lockerroom and see all of the trophies, so they can feel like they’re a part of the tradition," Crow said. "Hopefully, they’ll continue to carry on the tradition that we work hard and play hard. When you do that then usually the wins will take care of themselves. I want them to feel proud and be able to take all the tradition with them."
The Lady Cats lost five seniors off last year’s team, including all-stater Ashley Cyr, who also represented the East this past summer in the Arkansas High School Coaches Association all-star volleyball game in Fayetteville. Conway has seven seniors this season and Crow is expecting each of them to play a major role. Three of those seniors, Breezy Murphy, Mary Dunlap and Jasmyn Wilkins are returning starters. The other five seniors are Allison Shaw, Payton Hart, Alexis Robertson and Lauren Rivers.
"I’ve been really proud of those girls," Crow said. "They’ve provided good leadership skills and they’ve helped the younger players out, telling them what they need to do on the court, which has kind of been nice on the coach because I don’t have to stop and tell them every little thing."
In the morning practices, Crow has been having the girls work on team activities and during the evening, she brings in specific groups to work on individual drills that pertain to their position.
"Everything has been going well," Crow said. "We’ve really been trying to work on their skills this year. This is a good group of girls, with good attitudes, and they’re very spunky. They work hard so it’s been really fun."
Last week, the Lady Cats competed in a team camp at Hendrix College. According to Crow, her Lady Cats were able to see a few teams from the 7A-Central Conference, including Cabot, Bryant and North Little Rock and surrounding areas.
"It’s always nice to see what your competition might be in conference," Crow said. "I thought that we did really well. We have a lot of things that we need to work on. A lot of those teams are going to get better than they were. We got a chance to try some different lineups and kind of see what works best."
Conway will play in its preseason Volleyball Showcase on Aug. 22, which is the same day the Wampus Cats’ football team take the field for its annual Wampus Cat Steak-Out. The showcase starts at 1 p.m., with the seventh-grade game. The high school team will be the last one to take the court at 4.
The Lady Cats open their season play at home against Benton on Aug. 25, and then two days later, they’ll take a trip to Jonesboro to battle with Valley View. A tough nonconference match in Fort Smith with Southside is also scheduled Sept. 1, before the Lady Cats return home for their conference opener against Mount St. Mary on Sept. 3.
"I think it’s a good schedule," Crow said. "We always play Southside. They’re always one of the top three or four teams on that side of the conference. Valley View has like four or five state championships, so we’ll be able to see some of the things that we need to work on. It’s not easy to go in there and upset teams like that. Benton also beat us in that Hendrix team camp and they have some good hitters, so that’ll be a good game."