As I started walking towards the Beckville Ladycats’ locker room following their season ending five-set loss to Iola in a 2A Region III semifinal match-up last Friday at Longview High School, it was a walk I wasn’t looking forward to making.

Beckville, who came into the season with the highest of expectations after winning the 2A state title last year, just saw their season come to an end in a way they weren’t expecting — and neither was I.

As first-year Coach Andee Poteet was talking to her team in the locker room, I kept thinking in my head not what I’m going to ask them but that this really is the hardest part of my job.

Not the razor’s edge tight deadlines during football season, the hundreds of miles of travel during the playoffs and not the fact that on I have to be in the office multiple mornings after some nights when I don’t get to bed until after 1 or 2 a.m.

It’s interviewing these kids after seeing their seasons end and in fashions they weren’t expecting.

Beckville was fully expecting to go back to state and so was I last Friday. Seeing how emotional this team was last season after winning state, I expected the same but for the opposite reason.

Poteet emerged from the locker room first and, credit to Poteet, answered all of my questions despite having to take a pause to wipe tears from her eyes.

That was tough — and knowing I would need to talk to at least a few of the players after was the toughest.

By the time Poteet and I wrapped up our interview, I needed to track down several of the players who were being consoled by their families and classmates.

First up was Amber Harris, the reigning Panola Watchman Female Athlete of the Year, and just like all the previous times over four different sports, Harris provided me with all the time I needed.

Any volleyball team at the next level will be lucky to have Harris on their team next season.

Harris handled it like a complete champion in every since of the word, and I needed one more player to talk for the story.

Sure enough the next player I came across is Avery Morris, the team’s best player, who injured her knee in the third set and gutted out the match despite playing like a shadow of her usual self.

Morris, who still had tears in her eyes, graciously stepped away from her family to talk to me for a few minutes, and the East Texas Baptist University verbal commit answered all the questions.

With the emotions of the loss and the pain in her left knee, Morris showcased why she’s truly undisputed elite both on the court and off.

Before talking to the girls, I was asked if I was really going to talk to the players, and I said absolutely. As much as it hurt me to do — it definitely did — it was my job to tell the story.

I wasn’t hired to be a puff piece fairytale writer that only reports on the good; that’s not how this job works. To tell this story it was necessary to talk to some of the players, and the fact that I was able to do so with the team’s two best players added so much more realism.

I think back to this time nearly a year ago when the Carthage Bulldogs football team lost to China Spring in the playoffs, and I felt distraught having to interview the players then.

The majority of the players on last year’s team never suffered a loss in their entire high school career to that point, and seeing the state’s longest active winning streak and a chance at three-straight state titles come crashing down is not easy to take in.

I was granted the interviews when they didn’t have to do so, and it hurt to do so. Going back to this past Friday, it was tough having to interview Harris and Morris even though I have done so, so many times previously.

Both Harris and Morris showed extreme class because technically neither had to talk to me; this wasn’t a state match where the head coach and three players are assigned to talk to the media post match, this was a regional semifinal.

That says a lot about them individually and the families that have raised them because they didn’t have to say yes to my interview request.

I went back to the hospitality room in Longview after concluding my interviews, and I’ll admit transcribing the interviews for the story was difficult but necessary.

In a perfect world Beckville would’ve won and beat No. 1 ranked Leon on Saturday before going to back to state and winning their third state title in five years.

Unfortunately it didn’t happen that way, and the story needed to be told.

Even if was as tough for the writer to write about as it was for the players to talk about it.

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Sports Editor

Ryan Silapan joined the Panola Watchman in May of 2021 after previous stints with the Sequoyah County Times, and the Santa Cruz Sentinel. He's in his 11th year as a sports writer and in his free time enjoys golf and watching pro wrestling.