Ward Left Imprint Upon Farmington Athletics
VOLLEYBALL COACH TAKES JOB AT HAAS HALL AFTER SUCCESSFUL FIVE-YEAR RUN
FARMINGTON — Lady Cardinal head volleyball coach Marshall Ward resigned to take a job at Haas Hall with volunteer assistant and close friend Mike Howard taking his place.
“It broke my heart to leave Farmington, but I got a job offer that was too good for me to pass up,” Ward said, speaking during the Lady Cardinals’ match at rival Prairie Grove which Farmington swept, 25-23, 25-16, 25-14, on Thursday. “I still support them. I will always support them.”
Ward and his wife still reside in Farmington. Haas Hall, a public charter school, has campuses in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale. A recruitment bulletin posted on its website states: “Due to our controlled growth plan, Haas Hall Academy is seeking faculty and staff at each of our campuses in Northwest Arkansas.”
During his tenure as head volleyball coach from 2013 through 2017, Ward experienced a little bit of everything. When he first arrived on the scene Farmington was a 4A school still building a foundation under the program. Ward led the Lady Cardinals (7-10, 6-5) into the State 4A Tournament in his first season as head coach in 2013. They lost to Waldron (25-18, 24-26, 23-25, 21-25) in a tough four-set match.
Ward began to work with athletes on the mechanics of being able to hit a volleyball hard. Ward emphasized hitting with good technique and benefited from having girls beginning to play the sport at a younger age.
“Volleyball was still a very young program so I did get to be a part of growth,” Ward said. “Even though I’m not playing that part anymore I still feel like I am a part of the program — just as a fan now.
Ward’s best season at Farmington came in 2014 under the pressure of playing to finish among the top four 5A West teams in regular season standings with no conference tournament. The Lady Cardinals were on the bubble all year, and entered the last week of the regular season having to win twice just to give themselves a chance to qualify for the state tournament.
Farmington accomplished its objective with a senior night (25-13, 25-21, 25-15) sweep of Clarksville on Oct. 21, 2014, and a nail-biting road win (20-25, 25-21, 25-13, 25-21) at Vilonia on Oct. 23, 2014. The Lady Cardinals got help both nights within the conference with Little Rock Christian beating Greenbrier Oct. 21, 2014, and Morrilton going into five sets with Greenbrier on Oct. 23, 2014, before winning the tiebreaker, 16-14.
Ward didn’t allow complacency to set in with the achievement, and the Lady Cardinals followed his lead during the 2014 state volleyball tournament held at Valley View High School at Jonesboro. Unsatisfied with merely qualifying for state, Farmington knocked off No. 1 seed, Hot Springs Lakeside (20-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-21) to advance into the State 5A quarterfinal. The Lady Cardinals bowed out of tournament play with a five set (25-18, 11-25, 16-25, 25-23, 14-16) loss to Nettleton in the state quarterfinal.
Farmington enjoyed another productive year and again qualified for state in the 5A ranks in 2016. The Lady Cardinals finished 12-11-2 overall and 4-8 in league play. Farmington beat Greenbrier in five sets (25-16, 17-25, 31-29, 17-25, 15-7) in the first-round of the 5A West Conference tournament. They suffered a 3-1 loss to Harrison in the semifinals, which put them in the unenviable bracket position of taking on State 5A tournament host, Valley View, losing 25-12, 25-17, 25-14.
Last season, the Lady Cardinals wound up 5-15-1 with a 3-9 conference record that included competition against 6A schools Greenwood, Russellville and Siloam Springs in a mixed district.
Ward’s volleyball expertise was well respected. He was a member of the Arkansas Activities Association volleyball advisory committee, which included: Lisa Beasley, of Marion, 6A; Janna Berry, of Walnut Ridge, 3A; Brandy Chumley, of Benton, 6A; Laura Crow, of Conway, 7A; Jason Freeman, of Cutter Morning Star, 2A; Natalie Martin, of Newport, 4A; Laura Park, of Lonoke, 4A; Melissa Thames, of Camden Fairview, 5A; Ward representing Farmington as a 5A school; and Nick Lasker, as the AAA liaison.
A vacancy already existed from the 2A ranks on that board, and Farmington was among schools shifting in classification from 5A to 4A for volleyball beginning with the 2018 season. Ward appreciates the opportunity he was given and cherishes the experience of moving into the coaching ranks.
“I have memories of coaching and watching my girls enjoy their achievements,” Ward said. “I just think that’s irreplaceable. I just feel very lucky to have played that part and work with these kids and watch them grow and succeed.”