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Something to fight for

Something to fight for
Something to fight for 
by Kevin Taylor
 
There's nothing more frustrating for a coach than to be combated by an official. Doesn't matter what sport, what level. 
 
Tuesday night, Alma volleyball coach Kim Weaver found herself in such a predicament at Farmington. 
 
In the opening set, one of the two officials working Alma's match with the Lady Cardinals failed to make note of a substitution. This may not sound like much, but it's a big deal when it comes to volleyball and being in the right rotation. 
 
Weaver was vividly upset by the encounter and let her feelings be known which, after a couple of minutes, led to a yellow card. 
 
This is where the plight of Alma's volleyball season seemed to change for the better. Being called out by officials isn't a good school policy. But sometimes a little spark is all a team needs. 
 
Alma players responded with a little passion, and despite a bit of a letdown in the fourth set, the Lady Airedales put it all together for a five-set (16-25, 25-20, 28-26, 16-25, 15-11) victory over a program that won 21 matches in 2019. 
 
Alma beat a far less superior Pea Ridge team two days later to give the program it's first two-game winning streak in more than a year. But, after dropping the first game to the Lady Blackhawks, the Lady Airedales fought through adversity — and volleyball momentum — for a 3-1 victory. And, though the 5A-West is among the toughest 5A volleyball conferences in the state, Alma opens with a Vilonia team Tuesday that ended 2019 with 26 consecutive losses. 
 
Dare we say, the Lady Airedales may be on the verge of a three-game winning streak in three seasons? 
 
Shoot wins over Vilonia and Siloam Springs next week would give the program its first four-game winning streak since 2013, when the Lady Airedales ripped off six in a row. 
 
Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
 
"I think that we're in a really good place going into the conference," Weaver said. "We're going into a gauntlet of a conference, so for us to have these two wins is really going to help on Tuesday against Vilonia, and then Siloam Springs is really kind of a must-win for us. 
 
"(But) I'm happy about where we are. I'm seeing things in the kids that are special."
 
Senior Bella Nutt is among a handful of seniors who, before 2020, had been involved in just 10 senior high wins. Two wins in a row aren't worthy of a ticker-tape parade. 
 
But, the smile on Nutt's face tells a different story. 
 
"I think we're really playing as a team this year. I'm really excited to see what conference holds for us this year," Nutt said following Thursday's victory. "These wins against Pea Ridge and Farmington were really, really big for us. I think it kind of broke down a barrier."
 
The biggest barrier still isn't within reach. But Alma's program is beginning to stir the pot. 
 
The Lady Airedale junior high team (ninth graders) beat perennial power Chaffin Thursday. There are a number of eighth-graders who have played a substantial amount of travel ball while meshing with their school team, too. 
 
There is a foundation. But the process can be slow; like watching grass grow slow.
 
Nutt may be in college, or out of college, for that matter, by the time Weaver gets the program in the upper-echelon of area volleyball programs. But it's a start. 
 
"She (Weaver) pushes us really hard, but she's always very encouraging," Nutt said. "She not only makes us better players on the court but she helps us off the court, too. 
 
"She really gives us the mental aspect of volleyball and it's really helpful."