Bat­tle Of Tigers Goes 5 Sets

YOUNG PRAIRIE GROVE SQUAD PULLS OUT WIN AGAINST VAL­LEY SPRINGS

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - SPORTS - By Mark Humphrey EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

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.

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