CONWAY -- Springdale Har-Ber will meet Fayetteville in the Class 7A state volleyball finals, but the Lady Wildcats had to work a little longer to get there on Thursday afternoon.
Har-Ber (28-6) dropped the first two sets, but stormed back and scored the final three points to outlast host Conway 3-2 (14-25, 18-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-12) in front of a raucous crowd at Buzz Bolding Arena. It marked the second straight season Har-Ber defeated Conway in five sets in the semifinals.
The loss snapped Conway's 16-match winning streak and gives Har-Ber another shot at Fayetteville in the state finals, scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday in Hot Springs. The teams will meet for the third straight year in the finals with Fayetteville winning both times.
Har-Ber coach Shyrah Schisler had confidence in her team, despite getting down 2-0.
"I told the girls any time we go five, we can out-grit people," Schisler said. "They've prepared for those five-game matches. Mentally that's kind of been the Har-Ber hump. I'm seeing the girls fight through that and not get rattled, not get frustrated with each other and just come together more."
Har-Ber grabbbed the momentum early in the third set, outscoring Conway 24-8 in a stretch to force a decisive fifth set. The Lady Wildcats trailed 10-8 in the fifth, but scored seven of the final nine points -- finishing with a Lauren Thompson kill off the left side.
Junior outside hitter Jayci Carpenter led the way with a match-high 22 kills, while the senior Thompson added 19. Libero Kaitlyn Schemel finished with a match-high 27 digs, while sophomore setter Natalie Williams contributed nine kills, two aces and 32 assists.
Schisler also praised the blocking of middles Tori Sugg and Halle Roberts, who helped slow down Conway's 6-foot-2 senior Kendahl Davenport later in the match.
"They made some plays when we needed them and changed the momentum," Schisler said. "Natalie Williams made a couple big plays on the right side, taking pressure off Lauren and Jayci. Then Kaitlyn stepped up defensively, just getting everyone in cohesion again."
Conway (30-4-1) was led by Davenport with 17 kills and five blocks (four solos). Setter Aryn Blumenberg had a double-double with 39 assists and 14 digs. Libero Holly Stewart had a team-high 25 digs and three aces.
Fayetteville 3, Bentonville 1
Senior Haley Warner was nearly unstoppable at the net to the tune of 34 kills to help the Lady Purple Bulldogs continue their quest for a third straight state title.
The 6-2 Florida commit finished with a match-high 34 kills to lift Fayetteville to a 25-13, 19-25, 25-17, 25-20 win. Fayetteville (26-11) was the No. 3 seed out of the 7A-West Conference, but avenged two regular-season losses to the 7A-West champion Lady Tigers, who had a 10-match winning streak snapped and finished 30-5.
The two-time defending champions turned up the intensity at the end of the last two sets to close out the match. The Lady Purple'Dogs finished the third set with an 8-0 run to break from a 17-17 tie. They trailed 18-17 in the fourth, but finished out the match with a 8-2 run.
Fayetteville coach Jessica Phelan credited Warner and setter Ella May Powell with huge performances. They each have one state tournament most valuable player honor to their credit.
The 6-foot Powell, a Washington commit, added 13 kills and 35 assists. Warner chipped in 10 digs and four blocks, while libero Carley Galloway had a team-high 13 digs. Sophomore middle Arianna Walter contributed a match-high five blocks.
"I think we obviously had a big day from two kids that have been there," Phelan said. "I thought they really stepped up when we need for them to and scored points for us. The rest of the kids just found a way to get them the ball. Haley was special tonight.
"I think that we talk about our past doesn't determine our future today and we need to get our minds right and have confidence that we could go out and perform well. I thought we did that even when we dropped that second set. They were able to come back and not focus on that, but just the next point."
Bentonville coach Michelle Smith said her team didn't play bad, Fayetteville was just a little better.
"It's hard to beat a team three times," Smith said. "You can sit there and say it was this play or that play or a certain environment. It just came down to two great teams and we did everything we've been doing all year. Fayetteville out-played us.
"Haley has always played consistent against us. She definitely stepped it up today and made it hard at times. It just came down to a few points tonight and that's what happens in the state tournament."
Emma Palasak and Tymber Riley both registered double-doubles. Palasak had a team-high 15 kills and 11 digs, while Riley added 12 kills and 11 digs. Setter Baylee Barganier added 42 assists, while Tori Lowry chipped in 11 digs.
Shiloh Christian 3, Central Arkansas Christian 0
Junior Lexi Richards tallied a double-double with 20 kills and 14 digs to lead the Lady Saints to a 25-19, 25-17, 25-23 win over Central Arkansas Christian in the Class 4A semifinals Thursday at Lyon College.
Shiloh Christian (24-13) will now take on Baptist Prep in the finals at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon. It will be the Lady Saints' third state finals appearance in the last four years. Siloh Christian won the title in 2015.
Lady Saints coach Nathan Bodenstein was proud of the way his team bounced back from a tough match on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.
"We survived and advanced," Bodenstein said. "You could tell they were exhausted from a very emotional match yesterday. I was very concerned about it, but they pulled it off in three. CAC was very, very scrappy and just didn't let the ball drop.
"We were in control. I was proud of their focus and grit. A win's a win. We're moving on."
Libero Taylor Larson anchored the defense with 21 digs, while setter Jentry Lantzsch added a double-double of her own with 11 assists and 16 digs. Alex Bottorff also contributed five aces.
Sports on 10/27/2017
Print Headline: Fayetteville, Har-Ber advance to 7A state finals