The Lady Bulldogs began their two-time state title defense with victories against Greenwood (3-0) and Ozark, Mo. (3-2) last week. They open 7A-West play at Bentonville on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
“We play like four different lineups,” said coach Jessica Phelan. “It’s a good test to see if we’re gelling together and that kind of thing. Our goal is to have a rotation set before we play Bentonville.”
Senior Haley Warner has led the attack with 47 kills with a .289 hitting percentage while classmate Ella May Powell has 61 assists. Senior Carley Galloway has a team-high 30 digs. Sophomores Shalin Charles and Arianna Walter have contributed 18 kills and a team-high 11 blocks, respectively.
Because Warner and Powell spent the summer training with the USA Youth National Team, Phelan didn’t get to see how the team would fit together until fall practices began. She said finding the perfect combination and making progress with each match are instrumental in making another state title run come season’s end.
“It’s only been a couple of weeks with everyone together practicing as a team,” Phelan said. “It’s been good to see the seniors step up and the young kids coming along. I feel like we will improve a lot as the season goes along.”
Shyrah Schisler calls her Lady Wildcats “little, but mighty,” and the team’s vigor led to a strong weekend at the Bentonville Early Bird Tournament.
Har-Ber finished second to Jefferson City (Mo.) Helias, a program that has won 141 matches over the last four-plus seasons (43-0-1 in 2014). Schisler said facing teams that were able to take Har-Ber out of its comfort zone will be a plus in the long run.
“We had a great weekend,” she said. “I’m very proud of how they played. We didn’t have a game that didn’t have at least a little bit of competition and that’s good for us.
“(Helias was) solid, but I thought we played very well against them and did some very coachable things,” Schisler added. “I thought we did a great job adjusting (to their height). There were a couple of times when we got stuck in serve-receive but other than that I was really pleased.”
Three Har-Ber players – Ole Miss commit Lauren Thompson, Kaitlyn Schemel and Molly Kingston – were named to the all-tournament team. Thompson finished with 12 kills against Helias.
This week, rival Conway travels to Wildcat Arena for Har-Ber’s final non-conference match before 7A-West play begins Thursday against Rogers High. Har-Ber fell 3-1 at Conway last season before knocking off the Wampus Cats in the state semifinals.
“We play them year after year in tough matches,” Schisler said. “That’s good competition for us, and again, we’re facing another team that’s big height-wise, and that makes us better.
And we’re ready to go (in conference),” she added. “Getting some big games under our belt already that are tight put us in those situations to be successful. I like making it difficult early so we can settle in late, especially with our youth.”
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
The Lady Bulldogs’ weekend at Little Rock Spikefest ended on a high note.
Springdale won its final three matches against Morrilton, Baptist Prep and Rogers Heritage to win the silver bracket and finish 4-1-1 overall. Coach Meagan Thompson’s team has now matched its win total (5) from 2016.
Team chemistry was a major talking point throughout Thompson’s first season with the Lady Red’Dogs. With Springdale’s results through the early portion of the schedule, an improvement in that area is evident.
“It’s really exciting, and we have gotten off to a good start,” she said. “We have a long way to go, but I’m pleasantly surprised and looking forward to what the season is going to bring.”
Senior KeKe Turner led Springdale with eight kills in the silver bracket finals against Heritage while Kaleigh Breathitt recorded 20 digs, second most in a match this season. Breathitt has tallied a team-best 132 digs while Turner leads Springdale with 63 kills in 20 sets played thus far.
The Lady Bulldogs have Tuesday off after a seven-match stretch in five days last week, but begin 7A-West conference play Thursday against a familiar name – Heritage. Springdale edged the Lady War Eagles 25-20, 25-16 Saturday.
“It was a good preview for what Thursday is going to be like going into conference,” Thompson said. “It was good to get to see them and know what we need to focus on.”
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
Coach Christina Lawrence came away from Saturday’s tournament in Bentonville with a better idea of how her lineup needs to look, despite going 2-3 and losing in the silver bracket championship against Conway. <br><br>
“I think we learned a lot and got better as the day went on,” Lawrence said. “We tried eight different lineups. Emily Harris played well for us in the middle, blocked well. Hannah Martin was really consistent. We definitely didn’t play up to our potential, but that’s OK right now.”<br><br>
“Missed serves and passing are the things that are killing us right now.”<br><br>
Martin, a 6-foot outside hitter, earned all-tournament honors posting 40 kills, 14 blocks and 11 service aces on the day. <br><br>
The Lady Mounties (4-3) defeated Siloam Springs, then lost in three sets to Fort Smith Southside and eventual tournament champion Helias Catholic School of Jefferson City, Mo., in pool play. They bounced back to sweep 7A-West foe Bentonville West before losing to Conway in three sets.<br><br>
Maddie James, a 6-2 sophomore, and 5-9 junior Allie Stephens are two others who played well, Lawrence said.<br><br>
“Maddie puts up a big block and she got three swings and three kills,” Lawrence said. “Stephens is a lefty on the right side, which is always good. The one uncertainty right now is libero.”<br><br>
Lawrence said juniors Alexa Albarran and Anna Randels are battling for that spot, but Randels can also be a weapon on the front row.<br><br>
Rogers travels to Carl Junction, Mo. on Tuesday before opening conference play at Springdale Har-Ber on Thursday.<br><br>
The Lady War Eagles (3-3-1) finished second in the silver bracket of the Little Rock Spikefest on Saturday.<br><br>
“It was a good turnaround for us this weekend,” Rogers Heritage coach Lindsey Biocic said. “We went 3-2-1 and I think it was a real confidence-booster for the girls.”<br><br>
After a loss to Little Rock Christian in the morning, the Lady War Eagles bounced back with a pair of wins before falling to Springdale High.<br><br>
“Little Rock Christian was our worst game of the day, but we got two matches off to get lunch and get our minds reset,” Biocic said. “Then we came back and played back-to-back-to-back. and at the end we were just out of gas. I was proud of the way the girls came back and played through.”<br><br>
Biocic lauded her team’s defense pointing out the play of sophomore Berenice Morales, Alex Barto, Kyndall Strickland and senior Erika Reaser.<br><br>
“I don’t think we got aced much all weekend and our passing was amazing out of serve receive and that was directly because of those four,” Biocic said. “Freshman Sydney Frus had 24 kills and only five errors and that’s what we need from her. Lora Brown was also strong on the front row for us.”<br><br>
The Lady War Eagles travel to Fort Smith Northside on Tuesday before playing host to Springdale High on Thursday to open 7A-West Conference play.<br><br>
— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
After a 2-0 start, the Lady Tigers were “brought back to earth” by their own Early Bird Invitational.
Bentonville (4-3) went 2-1 in pool play with 2-0 wins over and Conway and Shiloh Christian, then dropped a three-set match to Ozark, Mo. That caused the Lady Tigers to take a No. 2 spot when tournament play began.
Bentonville then suffered a loss to eventual champion Jefferson City (Mo.) Helias Catholic and fell into the loser’s bracket before being eliminated by Ozark in another three-set match.
“It was a great eye-opener for our girls,” Bentonville coach Michelle Smith said. “Sometimes you learn more when you lose, especially against a big team like that. It allows you to see the areas where your team needs to improve, where if things come easy a team might get too comfortable.”
The time for the Lady Tigers to improve will be minimal. Bentonville plays a nonconference match Monday night at Siloam Springs, then jumps into 7A-West Conference play with a match Thursday against two-time defending state champion Fayetteville.
“At least we have a tournament under our belt, which a lot of teams don’t get,” Smith said. “Teams tend to improve a lot after tournaments, so this one was definitely a bonus.”