Fayetteville, Har-Ber meet in 7A finals for third straight year

Posted: October 28, 2017 at 1 a.m.

HOT SPRINGS — The Class 7A state volleyball finals will match familiar foes.

Fayetteville and Springdale Har-Ber not only battled it out in the 7A-West Conference, they will match up for the third straight year at Bank of Ozarks Arena at 7 p.m. tonight. Only a few key players return from last year’s teams, however.

Fayetteville (26-11) finished third in the 7A-West behind Bentonville High and Har-Ber, but the two-time defending state champions have made progress late in the season. The dynamic duo of Haley Warner and Ella May Powell, both three-time all-state selections, have carried a big load in the state tournament.

“I think there were points where they could have started to doubt whether they could finish their season in Hot Springs,” Fayetteville coach Jessica Phelan said. “But they didn’t. They came together mid-October as a group and got a little bit better in several different areas.”

Har-Ber (28-6) is led by senior Lauren Thompson and junior Jayci Carpenter, who were the only holdovers from last year’s state runner-up. Lady Wildcats coach Shyrah Schisler said it’s been special to see the team come together.

“That’s the cool thing, these kids being able to be in tough situations and have that resiliency,” Schisler said. “I really love to see that camaraderie come together in tight situations. I feel like people overlooked us a little bit, losing 12 seniors from a talented group. You don’t know what kids are gonna do. But they took what last year’s team did and continued with that.”

Har-Ber carries a 13-match winning streak into today’s finals, but will be looking for its first state title in four tries. The Lady Wildcats and Lady Purple Bulldogs split two regular-season meetings.

Shiloh Christian (25-13) bounced back from a loss in the finals of its conference tournament to reach the Class 4A state finals for the third time in four seasons under coach Nathan Bodenstein. The Lady Saints won the state title in 2015.

Libero Taylor Larson is the lone senior who sees action. She had an incredible 38 digs in Shiloh Christian’s four-set quarterfinal win over defending state champion Brookland, which eliminated the Lady Saints last year in the quarters.

Bodenstein said several players have contributed on and off the court. Lexi Richards put together two big matches in the state tournament. The 5-11 junior had 32 kills and 27 digs in the quarterfinals, then added 20 and 14 in the semifinals.

“Taylor’s never had to be a leader until this year,” Bodenstein said. “It’s been great to see the inexperienced ones grow and play for our seniors and the legacy of the program.”

The Lady Saints take on a newcomer Baptist Prep, which is making its first state finals appearance. The Lady Eagles (28-5) have won 22 straight matches.

State Finals Pairings

At Bank of Ozarks Arena, Hot Springs

CLASS 3A Paris vs. Hoxie, 11 a.m.

CLASS 4A Shiloh Christian vs. Baptist Prep, 1 p.m. CLASS 5A Batesville vs. Valley View, 3 p.m.

CLASS 6A Jonesboro vs. Greenwood, 5 p.m. CLASS 7A Fayetteville vs. Springdale Har-Ber, 7 p.m.