Woodruff, Lady Warhawks aim for return to state tournament

by Levi Gilbert

With two regular season games left, Kenzie Woodruff and the Mount Vernon-Enola Lady Warhawks are looking to close out strongly. 

“These last few games are big for us,” Woodruff said. “We have to just go out and do what we know how to do. We have to work as a team and listen to our coach. I have no doubt that we can win out. We just have to go out and get the job done.

“We need to focus on perfecting our plays. We have to take it one game at a time. We need to get as many shots up as we can. Just practice hard and never let a day go by that we aren’t focused.”

Woodruff, a senior guard for Mount Vernon-Enola (27-5, 6-2), was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team — 37 players representing the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the court. The team is sponsored by Conway Ortho and Sports Medicine, Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank. Woodruff was nominated by her coach, Adam Carlton.

“Kenzie is a great leader and always encouraging to other teammates in practice,” Carlton said. “I will always hear her complimenting or encouraging our young players in practice and during games. Kenzie works extremely hard on defense. She is one of our best defenders.”

After making it to the 1A semi-finals a year ago, the Lady Warhawks are well on their way to a return trip deep into the state playoffs. This year, Woodruff is averaging seven points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals per game. The senior is shooting 37 percent from the 3-point line. 

“We went farther than anyone expected us to last year,” Woodruff said. “Our team goal is to return to the state tournament and win state. I’m trying to be the best teammate and co-captain I can be, on and off the court.”

“She works extremely hard in the classroom,” Carlton said. “She is an A/B student. In my three years of coaching her, I have never had a teacher complain about her attitude or work ethic in the classroom.”

Woodruff owes her successes on and off the court to the many mentors who have poured into her life over the years. 

“Coach Carlton is the best coach I have ever played under,” she said. “He did a really good job making sure we were in shape and ready for this season. He always picks us up when we are down. He gives the most inspirational halftime speeches and always gets us motivated. I wouldn’t want to play under any other coach.

“One of my biggest mentors was AAU coach Corey Pio. He really helped me take my game to another level. All of my coaches have been a mentor in a way. My parents always support me and guide me in the right direction. They are always there to pick me up when I’m down. My parents are the most important people to me.”

In addition to basketball, Woodruff also runs track for the Lady Warhawks. Off the field, she serves as president of FCCLA, reporter of the senior class, treasurer of JUST (Jesus Uniting Students Together) and is a member of Beta Club. 

“After high school, I plan to attend either Arkansas State University or Arkansas Tech University and major in animal sciences on the pre-vet track. Then, hopefully I will attend vet school.”

Woodruff and the Lady Warhawks travel to defending 2A state champion Quitman at 6 p.m. Friday.