Battle Of Tigers Goes 5 Sets
YOUNG PRAIRIE GROVE SQUAD PULLS OUT WIN AGAINST VALLEY SPRINGS
PRAIRIE GROVE — A pair of freshmen made their mark helping Prairie Grove (1-0) pull out a 5-set (25-9, 26-28, 25-16, 17-25, 15-12) nonconference volleyball victory over visiting Valley Springs (1-1) Aug. 22.
Prairie Grove coach Mat Stewart played middle hitters Lexi Light (5-9) and Kennedy Conrad (5-10) and they made a difference along the front line.
“They both play club ball for Ozark,” Stewart said. “And you can tell they both play a lot better from playing fall and winter.”
Both played crucial roles in an exciting match that went into a tie-breaker and included a 28-26 win by Valley Springs in game two.
“They are both very good players, it’s still an adjustment period for them and our older girls as well as they learn how to play together,” Stewart said.
Senior Ali Edgar (dig), junior Chrysten Wetzel (set) and Light (kill) teamed up to get the first point in the decisive game five. Light followed that up with a block-kill and a two-handed soft kill for a 3-0 lead. Callie Lowery’s ace started a 6-2 Valley Springs run that concluded with back-toback aces by Brylee Graddy.
After a time-out, Prairie Grove battled back, taking an 8-6 lead on a pair of kills by sophomore Emily Traylor from Wetzel assists. Valley Springs sneaked in front, 10-9, on a Prairie Grove hitting error before Wetzel set up Traylor to answer. The score was deadlocked at 10-10 and again at 12-12. Coming out of a time-out, Wetzel fed Traylor again as Prairie Grove forced a side-out and regained the lead at 13-12. Light’s blockkill brought up game and match-point. Prairie Grove won on an ace despite a diving attempt by Valley Springs’ Anna Mathis to get a dig.
Both coaches came away expecting their inexperienced squads to improve. Stewart said he was proud of his girls, noting only one starter returns from last season.
“We are playing two seniors and a lot of youngins around them,” Stewart said. “I’m proud of them, the fact that we could have very easily lost that match against a very good Valley Springs defensive team.”
“They played fantastic defense. They did not let a lot of balls hit the floor without some kind of crazy effort. Their coach does a good job with them.”
Valley Springs came in off an Aug. 21 sweep of Eureka Springs (25-7, 25-10, 25-12) the night before.
“We graduated four seniors, who started since their freshmen year,” said Valley Springs coach Christie Popejoy. “These girls didn’t get a lot of playing time last year. We’ve got some good players. Hopefully, as this year progresses we’ll get better.”
Wetzel’s serving pushed Prairie Grove out to a 9-2 lead in the first set. Valley Springs cut the lead to 10-5 before Prairie Grove rode a 15-4 spurt to take game one, 25-9, on Light’s kill. Conrad made a spectacular play during the run drawing cheers from Prairie Grove fans. She played the ball over with her right hand, then overcame a block by batting the ball back over with her left hand.
Game two was a spectactor’s dream, featuring 10 ties as Prairie Grove overcame several deficits to extend the game. After an early 3-3 tie Valley Springs jumped ahead, 10-4 only to have Prairie Grove forge a tie, at 10-all. Conrad and West Fork-transfer junior Sophia Nunziato had kills. Traylor had an ace. Valley Springs broke away from a 15-15 tie with four straight points. Another Prairie Grove freshman Denise Martinez served an ace, then Conrad and Traylor pounded kills. Prairie Grove took leads of 21-20 and 23-21 behind Traylor’s play. Three times Prairie Grove reached game-point, the first on Wetzel’s assist to Nunziato, at 24-23, but couldn’t put the game away. A violation wasted a 25-24 lead and a 26-25 lead evaporated on Graddy’s kill for Valley Springs. With the score even at 26-26, the next two points went to Valley Springs on a hitting error and ace leading to the visitors’ 28-26 win.
Prairie Grove erupted for a 9-3 run in game three to capture a 13-7 lead on Light’s ace. Traylor’s ace stretched the lead out to 20-9 and Prairie Grove took game three, 25-16. Prairie Grove had an early 7-2 lead in game four, but Valley Springs avoided elimination with a 23-10 finish to force a tie-breaking fifth set.