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HOT SPRINGS -- Shiloh Christian Coach Nathan Bodenstein talked all season about his team's lack of experience, and it showed early in the Class 4A state finals Saturday afternoon.

However, the Lady Saints regrouped after dropping the first set to claim a 3-1 (15-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-23) victory over Baptist Prep at Bank of Ozarks Arena.

"I [think] our inexperience just showed, the bright lights, the arena, just being in the state finals," said Bodenstein, who had just one senior that saw action in the finals. "They just kind of lost their minds for a little bit.

"I told them this is a defining set, if you can just go and just forget about that first set, just be done with it. Volleyball's a great sport like that. It's very forgiving. You can do really bad in one set and then go and still win it. They proved it right there."

Shiloh Christian (25-13) picked up the defensive intensity and 5-10 junior Lexi Richards got going offensively. The Lady Saints scored the final four points of the third set, then rolled to a 20-10 lead in the fourth before holding off a furious Baptist Prep rally.

Richards, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, put together a big match with 32 kills and 15 digs. She had nine kills in the second set alone to get Shiloh Christian's offense clicking. But the Lady Saints' defense rose to the occasion to slow Baptist Prep (28-6).

Five different Shiloh Christian players had 10 or more digs led by senior libero Taylor Larson's 23. Junior setter Hattie McDonald, who earned praise from McDonald for shaking off some early struggles, added 17 assists and 19 digs.

"She got in there and had some game-defining digs in that third set," Bodenstein said. "I was proud of how she bounced back. I was in her ear a lot in the beginning."

Shiloh Christian bounced back after losing in the finals of its conference tournament to Berryville, but came on strong in the state tournament, Bodenstein said.

"I tell them in practice, 'I challenge you all the time and that's why,'" Bodenstein said. "I was so proud of them. We could have folded after that loss to Berryville and had a really bad end of the year."

Baptist Prep Coach Krista Spoon said her team's execution was off at times but credited Shiloh Christian's defense, as the Lady Eagles had their 23-match winning streak snapped.

"They had great defense and they got the ball back over the net and kept us having to play the point longer and they just won most of those big long rallies," said Spoon, whose team won its first state tournament match in school history this year. "We didn't change up our game very much. We did what we did best and the first game, it worked out well for us. You know sometimes that just happens and that's OK."



Valley View captured its 12th state championship Saturday afternoon and the Lady Blazers made the occasion even more special by setting a school record for victories.

Senior outside hitter Gia Tricarico made 11 kills and senior MVP Callie Weaver came up with 32 digs as the Lady Blazers (40-2) routed 5A-East rival Batesville 25-16, 25-15, 25-18 in the Class 5A state championship game.

“Every year, there’s something special, something different about them,” said Valley View Coach Margie McGee, whose program has won the last three Class 5A titles. “These six seniors have really pulled them along. They took the juniors, sophomores and freshmen on their backs and they’ve truly left a legacy behind.”

Junior setter Abbigail McGee led the Lady Blazers with 17 assists, while junior Lexee Caldwell added 16. Sophomore Gracie McGee added 11 digs.

Batesville (29-9) was led by junior Taylor Griffin with nine kills and a block. Junior Alley Edwards put down eight kills.



Paris overcame some early nervousness to claim its third consecutive state title.

Junior outside hitter Ryleigh Hardwicke had 16 kills as the Lady Eagles defeated Hoxie for the Class 3A title. Paris won 27-25, 25-11, 25-13.

Paris (35-2) trailed 22-19 in the first game and survived one game point before taking control of the match.

“We really had the jitters for a group that’s been here,” said Paris Coach Wes Davis, whose team committed four service errors in the first game but only one in the final two games. “It shocked me the way we came out but we recovered from it.”

Senior libero Jenna Lowery, who finished with a game-high three aces and 16 digs, said the team’s experience in the state championship match played a difference.

“I think it was all nerves,” said Lowery, who was named the tournament’s MVP. “Once we started playing our game, settled in and got comfortable, we got going.”

Sports on 10/29/2017

Print Headline: Shiloh Christian defense picks it up

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