Oua­chita Bap­tist, Harding sur­vive 5-set open­ers

The Sentinel-Record - - COMICS, ETC. - JAMES LEIGH

Oua­chita Bap­tist de­feated Arkansas Tech, 3-2, in the quar­ter­fi­nals of the Great Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence Vol­ley­ball Cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment at Bank OZK Arena Thurs­day night.

“I knew when we played at Tech, they beat us in three,” said Tigers head coach Al­li­son Frizzell-Kizer. “When they played at our place, we beat them in three. When it comes to a tour­na­ment, it’s any­body’s game.

“They’re not a team that quits; we’re not a team that quits, so hon­estly, I was ex­pect­ing it to go four or five. I think our hearts just played out of our ch­ests tonight.”

The first set saw five ties but just one lead change as Arkansas Tech

(17-12) took an early 6-3 lead, but the Tigers (23-8) knot­ted the score at 11, set­ting up the ma­jor­ity of the set’s back-and-forth points. The Golden Suns pulled within 22-19 be­fore Oua­chita closed out the set on a 3-1 run for the 25-21 win.

The Golden Suns took an early

6-0 lead in the sec­ond set, forc­ing Frizzell-Kizer to call a time­out. Af­ter the Tigers scored three in a row, Arkansas Tech hit a six-point rally for a

12-3 lead. The Tigers slowly chipped away at the Golden Suns’ lead as they ral­lied to take the 25-22 win for a two-set lead.

The Golden Suns took an 8-5 lead to start the third set. They later bat­tled back from a pair of set points to take the 26-24 win and force a fourth. A seven-point run in the fourth set pushed Arkansas Tech to a 20-13 lead be­fore forc­ing a fifth with a

25-18 win.

Adri­anna Nolly had a pair of kills to set the Tigers on the right track in the de­cid­ing fifth set . Late in the set, Arkansas Tech’s Kera Du­kic chal­lenged what would have been the match point, see­ing a touch be­fore the ball went out of bounds. The call was over­turned, spark­ing a three­p­oint run by the Golden Suns, but the Tigers held on to win, 25-11, set­ting up the late semi­fi­nal against top seed Harding (23-7) Fri­day night.

“There’s a fine line for every in­di­vid­ual, a bal­ance of fo­cus and fun,” Frizzell-Kizer said. “Each girl has a dif­fer­ent mind, so I have to learn where that line is for each girl. … I knew I couldn’t be too se­ri­ous, how I nor­mally am. I had to bal­ance it out with be­ing a lit­tle more fun and loose.”

Nolly dom­i­nated the net for the Tigers, pick­ing up 24 kills. Katie Camp tal­lied 17, and Ta­batha Huck­abee had 11. Ju­lianna Mack led the back row with 17 digs, Shan­non Ho­gan added 15 and Stormi Leonard had 12. Leonard also ended up with 59 as­sists.

No. 1 Harding def. No. 8 NWOSU, 3-2

Top-seeded Harding eked out a 3-2 win over the eighth-seeded North­west­ern Ok­la­homa State (18-14) at Bank OZK Arena Thurs­day evening in the third quar­ter­fi­nal match.

The two teams tied each other 33 times and ex­changed the lead 18 times in the five-set match, with seven ties and three lead changes in the first set alone. The Lady Rangers took an early 8-5 lead, thanks to a five-point rally capped by an ace by Tobi Barker, but the Lady Bisons rolled on a 9-2 rally to take a 14-10 lead, stretch­ing to a 20-15 lead be­fore a kill by North­west­ern’s Kaydee Hon­ey­cutt slowed Harding’s run. Harding closed out the set on a five-point run for the 25-17 win.

“In tour­na­ment play, you never know what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” said Harding head coach Mered­ith Fear. “When an Ok­la­homa team matches up with an Arkansas team, you only get to see them once.

“So, maybe they had a bad match, or you had a bad match. … I think it caught us off-guard. I think maybe we thought maybe we’d get through it a lit­tle bit eas­ier.”

Both teams strug­gled to take a dom­i­nant lead in the sec­ond set with nei­ther tak­ing more than a three­p­oint lead be­fore Hon­ey­cutt’s kill gave the Lady Rangers a 25-22 win.

“I felt like we had a great game plan for them,” Lady Rangers head coach Jeremy White said. “It worked when we were ex­e­cut­ing, and a lot of times we failed to do that, and it cost us, es­pe­cially in Set 4. … I didn’t ex­pect that it would be a five-set match, but I did be­lieve that we did have a chance to make it that way.”

Harding took an early four-point lead in the third set, hold­ing the lead for much of the set un­til a block by Jen­nifer Eubanks kicked off a five­point rally to give the Lady Rangers a 15-14 lead. The two teams kept it close for the re­main­der of the set un­til North­west­ern closed out the set on a 4-1 run for a 25-21 win.

“We’ve been down 1-2 and come back and won in five a cou­ple times this sea­son. So that ac­tu­ally worked in our fa­vor,” Fear said. “Hav­ing a group with a lot of up­per­class­men, they’ve got a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence to pull on. They don’t get ner­vous.”

North­west­ern took con­trol of the fourth set early, cruis­ing to a 7-3 lead, but Harding hit a 8-1 run to take a

10-8 lead. The Lady Rangers never got within three points as the Lady Bisons cruised to a 25-16 win to force a de­cid­ing fifth set.

“I re­minded them that we had a great game­plan, and that’s ex­actly what we did in those two sets that we won,” White said. “It made a huge dif­fer­ence be­cause we ex­e­cuted the way we wanted to. … We did our jobs in those two sets, and we got back to it in the fifth, and it was work­ing. We just didn’t fin­ish with it.”

The Lady Rangers jumped out to a

2-0 lead, but the two teams matched each other point-for-point for most of the rest of the set. North­west­ern took a 13-12 lead late in the set, but a kill by Tay­lor Lake and two by Madi­son Poen se­cured the set and match.

No. 2 South­west­ern Ok­la­homa State def. No. 7 South­ern Nazarene, 3-1

South­west­ern Ok­la­homa State dropped the first set to South­ern Nazarene, but re­cov­ered for a fourset win on Thurs­day at Bank OZK Arena.

“I wouldnt ex­pect any­thing less,” said South­west­ern head coach Josh Collins. “We’re right down the road from each other. It’s kind of a ri­valry for us, but not only that, we’ve be­come good friends with that pro­gram.”

The two teams bat­tled from start to fin­ish with the No. 2 Bull­dogs ral­lied to take a 17-12 lead, but a kill by Grace Mir­a­cle later knot­ted the score at 21. Mir­a­cle gave South­ern Nazarene the lead with an­other kill as the Crim­son Storm held on to take the first set, 25-23.

The Bull­dogs led through­out the sec­ond set, but South­ern Nazarene man­aged to pull within 24-20. A ser­vice er­ror by Bailee Tu­rang gave the set point to South­west­ern.

“I was ex­pect­ing a hard-fought match,” Collins said. “A lot of times with vol­ley­ball, it’s just about who catches mo­men­tum at the right time. … Af­ter that first set, I think we kind of set­tled in, and we started cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the things we do well. We had the mo­men­tum.”

The two teams knot­ted the score eight times with a pair of lead changes in the third set, but the Bull­dogs took an 18-10 lead on a six-point rally. The Crim­son Storm pulled within three, but South­west­ern closed the set on a seven-point run, 25-15.

“We came out and did a re­ally good job of get­ting into our game plan pretty quick,” said South­ern Nazarene head coach Kevin In­gram. “They made some ad­just­ments to what we did and what we were plan­ning on try­ing to do to­day. … We just kind of lost our abil­ity to hold a lead or get a lead. You’ve got the lead in this game, it helps you mo­men­tum-wise to play even bet­ter.”

South­ern Nazarene took an early 2-1 lead in the fourth set, but South­west­ern quickly rolled to an 8-2 lead that it never re­lin­quished. The Crim­son Storm could only get within four points as the Bull­dogs took a 25-17 win to ad­vance to the semi­fi­nals.

“In a ri­valry game, it’s all about mo­men­tum,” In­gram said. “We got the mo­men­tum mid­way through that first set, and we won it. We just never got it back on our side at any point. We never could get the lead and re­ally take that mo­men­tum. Once they got it, they con­tin­ued to build on it.”

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