HOT SPRINGS -- Fayetteville coach Jessica Phelan told her team to just close their eyes and picture themselves with the state championship trophy, after the Lady Purple Bulldogs dropped the second set to even their 7A state title match with Springdale Har-Ber.
Two sets later, the Lady Purple'Dogs were taking pictures with the trophy for real as Fayetteville closed strong to claim a 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-22, 25-20) win and its third straight state title Saturday night at Bank of Ozarks Arena.
"We just needed to calm down a little bit," said Phelan after Har-Ber closed the second set with a 9-2 run to even the match. "I think all week we've been talking about what's your word? For me it was believe and you've just gotta keep believing. I thought they were able to come back and continue to fight at that point.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Haley Warner, a 6-foot-2 Florida commit,way enjoyed another huge match with a match-high 31 kills and six blocks. Fellow senior Ella May Powell had a strong all-around match with 12 kills, 31 assists and 17 digs.
Har-Ber (28-7) battled from behind in the third set, tying it at 22. However, Fayetteville scored the final three points to swing momentum its direction. The Lady Purple'Dogs jumped to a 7-1 lead in the fourth set and never looked back as Har-Ber got no closer than two.
Fayetteville (27-11), which split two regular season meetings with Har-Ber and finished third in the 7A-West, came together well late in the season and especially in the state tournament, Phelan said.
"I think they stuck together when it got tough," Phelan said. "I thought game three went back and forth. They were able to maintain some composure when it got tight.
"When we made a mistake early in the season, sometimes that one mistake would turn into two or three. And I thought we had better focus at this point. I'm super proud to be able to send Ella and Haley out with another state title -- two very special players in the history of Arkansas volleyball."
Fayetteville enjoyed a strong blocking night led by sophomore middle Arianna Walter with nine, along with strong nights from Powell (five) and Warner (5). Libero Carley Galloway anchored the defense with 19 digs, while Gracyn Spresser added 17.
Har-Ber, which lost for the third straight time in the finals to Fayetteville, was led by senior Lauren Thompson and junior Jayci Carpenter. Thompson finished with a team-high 26 kills and 15 digs, while Carpenter added 16 kills. Setter Natalie Williams dished out 31 assists, while Molly Kingston chipped in 14 digs. The Lady Wildcats had a 13-match winnings streak snapped and are still searching for their first state title in four finals appearances.
Sports on 10/29/2017
Print Headline: Fayetteville earns third straight 7A state volleyball title