The Lady Bulldogs are in third place in 7A-West play heading into Tuesday’s regular season finale against Van Buren at home.
Fayetteville lost out on locking up the No. 2 seed from the conference with a 3-2 loss at Springdale Har-Ber last week. The Lady Bulldogs lost the final set by a narrow 20-18 margin.
“I think a close loss is only bad if you don’t learn from it,” said Fayetteville coach Jessica Phelan. “We can go back and look at things we can do to get better and we can really pay attention to those things to get ready for the state tournament.”
One of those things Phelan said the Lady Bulldogs can improve upon is defense, which was exposed at times in losses against the league’s front runners.
“I think we saw it against Har-Ber and against Benotnville,” Phelan said. “Both teams had a similar game plan as far as where to attack us and I think it’s showed us where we need to get better as far as a defense and blocking.”
Phelan has said all along how this is a young team despite the presence of senior standouts like Haley Warner, Ella May Powell and Carley Galloway. She has been impressed with the development of underclassmen like Arianna Walter, Amelia Whatley and Rosana Hicks, among others.
“I think our younger kids are getting more and more comfortable playing at this level,” Phelan said. “We’re starting freshmen and sophomores, but at this point in the season they’ve been in those big games environments on the road and they’re no longer intimidating. Those matches, like the one at Har-Ber, have prepared them for the state tournament.
“We feel good about our team and I think we continue to get better.”
— MIKE CAPSHAW • @NWACappy
Call them young, call them largely inexperienced minus a veteran or two. But you can’t say the Lady Wildcats aren’t playing their best volleyball of the season.
Har-Ber capped yet another impressive run with two wins – vs. Fayetteville, at Van Buren – last week. Shyrah Schisler’s club has won an even 10 matches in a row entering its final match of the regular season against Rogers Heritage.
Har-Ber eased to a three-set sweep of Heritage to close the first round of conference play and should do so again Tuesday, which would move the Lady Wildcats to 26-6 overall and 12-2 in 7A-West play. The 12 wins would place them in second place heading into the state tournament. Bentonville has sewn up the league’s 1-seed.
Senior Lauren Thompson has been called upon quite a bit lately in matches against Bentonville and Fayetteville. And in those matches, she tallied 32 and 27 kills, respectively, to lead Har-Ber to big home wins. Part of the reason Har-Ber is in this position has been its ability to protect its home floor. The Lady Wildcats are 9-0 at home this season, and 6-0 at home in league matches.
Har-Ber has not lost a regular season home match since Oct. 1, 2015. Dating back to last season, the Lady Wildcats have won 19 consecutive matches in Wildcat Arena. But won’t Har-Ber play on a neutral floor in the state tournament? Yes. And Har-Ber is 8-3 on neutral floors this season (Bentonville 7-0, Fayetteville 8-8, Springdale 6-3-1).
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
The good news for coach Meagan Thompson and Springdale is that they are firmly in the state tournament field for the first time in recent memory.
There really is no bad news, but Tuesday’s match at Rogers High is a meaningful one. According to Walter Woodie and the NWADG’s Henry Apple, there are different scenarios that will ultimately determine tournament seeding.
Regardless, Springdale High’s turnaround in only Thompson’s second season with the school has been remarkable. The Lady Red’Dogs have won 13 games this season. They won five all of 2016. Springdale has won four road matches this season. It won two all of 2016. Neutral court play, too, has improved from two wins to six wins. Solid play has traveled with Springdale this fall.
Here is a further breakdown of Springdale’s improvements from Year 1 to Year 2:
Springdale has 735 kills in 2017. In 2016: 531.
Springdale has 103 aces in 2017 with matches remaining. In 2016: 103.
Springdale has 1,475 digs in 2017. In 2016: 1,075.
Springdale has 658 assists in 2017. In 2016: 441.
Springdale has 134 reception errors in 2017. In 2016: 167.
Tuesday’s match will be pivotal for seeding, and also momentum for state playoffs. Springdale beat Rogers in four sets in the teams’ first meeting. KeKe Turner (7 blocks) and Zoe Schmidt each recorded 10 kills, Springdale finished with nine aces and Kaleigh Breathitt added 34 digs.
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
The Lady Mounties (12-19, 5-8 7A-West) have won three out of their last five matches to clinch a spot in the state tournament.<br><br>
They could claim the No. 4 seed out of the 7A-West West with a sweep of Springdale High on Tuesday. But if Rogers beats Springdale in five sets, the Lady Red Bulldogs would claim the fourth seed and Rogers the No. 5.<br><br>
The Lady War Eagles (5-23-1, 0-13 7A-West) close the season at Springdale Har-Ber on Tuesday. It could be the second consecutive season Heritage has gone winless in the 7A-West Conference with a loss in the season finale. It will be the second straight season Heritage has not made the state tournament. <br><br>
— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
The Lady Tigers have already wrapped up the 7A-West Conference’s top seed for next week’s Class 7A state tournament, but there’s a lot of incentive riding on Tuesday’s regular-season finale.
Bentonville (28-4, 12-1) can win the outright league title with a win. The Lady Tigers can also send out their 12 seniors with a win in their final home game, and there’s also bragging rights on the line against Bentonville West.
“It’s going to be an exciting night,” Bentonville coach Michelle Smith said. “This bunch of seniors is exceptional, and they have left a legacy here. I’m sure there will be some tears shed, and some emotions will be running high.
“Playing our crosstown rivals means it’s going to be a great matchup. Winning this match will send us into the state tournament on a good note.”
Bentonville enters the match after a successful trip Saturday to Overland Park, Kan., where the Lady Tigers won five matches to win the Blue Valley Invitational. Bentonville had only two matches go the three-set limit.
“We travel up to Kansas to face great competition that sometimes we don’t see down here,” Smith said. “We go into that tournament with certain goals. Winning that tournament title is not realistic, but it’s hard because of the teams involved.
“Playing all those matches in one day is good preparation for the state tournament. The good thing about the state tournament is the fact we will have one match, then have time to regroup and refocus for the next one.”
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry