Ouachita Baptist, Harding survive 5-set openers
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
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.”