4A-1 Shap­ing Up As Tough­est In State

PRAIRIE GROVE SWEPT BY PEA RIDGE

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

PRAIRIE GROVE — Pea Ridge de­feated a young Prairie Grove squad, 25-16, 25-14, 25-19, in three sets Thurs­day, Sept. 6, in 4A-1 league vol­ley­ball ac­tion.

Veteran Pea Ridge coach Jes­sica Woods wasn’t tak­ing any­thing for granted even with the sweep.

“Prairie Grove is a very ath­letic team,” Wood said, ex­plain­ing her im­pres­sions of the youth­ful Tigers’ team­work to set up an at­tack. “Prairie Grove showed tonight they’ve got some fight. They can re­ally work to­gether to make those things hap­pen.”

Pea Ridge won in rel­a­tively sim­i­lar fash­ion, tak­ing games one and two by scores of 25-16 and 25-14, be­fore hold­ing off a fi­esty Prairie Grove squad in the third and de­ci­sive set.

“We knew it was go­ing to be tough be­cause Jes­sica has built that pro­gram up and they have a lot of girls, from what I un­der­stand, that play club vol­ley­ball,” said Prairie Grove coach Mat Ste­wart. “You can tell. They’re very­well coached. They’re very good ath­letes and they’re very good vol­ley­ball play­ers, and every­thing else. So we knew we had our work cut out for us tonight. (That’s) a very good team.”

The third set was close early be­fore Pea Ridge pulled away ex­tend­ing an 8-6 lead with back-to-back kills con­cluded by Cassy Porter’s stroke to make the score, 11-6. Senior Sophia Nun­zi­ato broke the run for Prairie Grove with a kill of her own. Ash­lyn Humphrey be­gan an­other 3-1 Pea Ridge mini-run with a kill. This time Prairie Grove got a kill from sopho­more Lexi Light to tem­po­rar­ily halt Pea Ridge’s mo­men­tum, but the Lady Tigers would get no closer than 14-10 al­though they grit­tily bat­tled back from a 19-10 deficit.

Gabby Adams’ kill off the net gave the Lady Black­hawks a 21-14 lead. Then a dig went off the ceil­ing and Pea Ridge didn’t get a play, fol­lowed by Jansen Wil­liams’ kill for Prairie Grove and a pair of hit­ting er­rors. The trio of Gra­cie Easter­ling (dig), Adams (set) and Josey Gold­berg (kill) worked the of­fense and Pea Ridge moved to 22-17. Humphrey closed out the match with a big hit to make the fi­nal, 25-19, in the third set.

“Th­ese girls, they’re a fun group to watch,” Woods said. “We re­turn our en­tire start­ing lineup from last year. They are great kids off the court. It’s nice that we’ve got a lot com­pet­ing in prac­tice. We’ve got a lot to pull into so it’s very ex­cit­ing, adding to our prac­tices with the young girls fight­ing.”

Huntsville Sweep

The Lady Tigers lost Sept. 4, at Huntsville in an­other 4A-1 league match, 25-20, 25-19, 25-23.

“Huntsville, I think we’re prob­a­bly pretty evenly matched, de­spite the score,” Ste­wart said. “We made more er­rors than they did and didn’t re­cover from them. Just one of those things, they just played a bet­ter game than us.”

“They were all back and forth,” Ste­wart said. “The third set we had a pretty sub­stan­tial lead and just kind of fell apart. One or two girls that served hurt us and that was the story of that third set. I think that if we had got that third set, it might have sparked us a lit­tle bit. You never know what’s go­ing to hap­pen af­ter that.”

Im­prove­ment Shown

“I think we got bet­ter,” Ste­wart said. “I think we played Pea Ridge bet­ter than we played Farm­ing­ton last week. Again, I think they’re one of the top teams in the state, they’re go­ing to give peo­ple prob­lems; but we got a lot of teams in our con­fer­ence that are go­ing to give peo­ple prob­lems around the state. It’s def­i­nitely, in my opin­ion, the deep­est con­fer­ence from top to bot­tom.”

“Our girls’ never quit at­ti­tude, they want to keep getting bet­ter and you never know once mid to late sea­son rolls around, that district tour­na­ment rolls around, I’m hop­ing that we’re to the point where we are a prob­lem for peo­ple.”

Ste­wart sees the 4A-1 be­ing the deep­est, strong­est vol­ley­ball con­fer­ence over­all since he be­gan coach­ing at Prairie Grove.

“In my opin­ion it is,” Ste­wart said. “When you add Har­ri­son, Farm­ing­ton, to the mix of Shiloh and Pea Ridge … up to every school that’s in it, Huntsville, Gravette, Ber­ryville ob­vi­ously. Gen­try is also much-im­proved from last year, so I think we’re go­ing to get bet­ter as it goes on as well.”

MARK HUMPHREY ENTERPRISE-LEADER

Prairie Grove and Pea Ridge play­ers bat­tle at the net dur­ing a Thurs­day, Sept. 6, match won by the Lady Black­hawks, 25-16, 25-14, 25-19.

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