Following her team’s match against Van Buren on Tuesday, Bentonville coach Michelle Smith talked as if her team had just gotten swept.
On the contrary, the Lady Tigers actually swept the Pointerettes, 25-18, 27-25, 25-18, and in the process clinched the 7A/6A-West title. But Smith gave high praise to Van Buren for pushing Bentonville in all three games.
"I was just talking to the Van Buren coach (Stephanie Hill) and I said she should be really proud of her girls," Smith said. "People will see the 3-0 win, but for them it’s a good loss and for us, it was kind of a bad win; their girls played not to lose and we just kind of went through the motions (Tuesday), but I’m going to give the credit to Van Buren because they played lights out and they deserved a lot of credit."
The Lady Tigers (20-4, 12-0) opened leads of 9-3 and 18-10 in the first game, but couldn’t shake off Van Buren. The Pointerettes got within four, 22-18, before a kill from Bentonville senior Ariel Hornsby and an ace from senior Emily Bruce eventually gave the Lady Tigers the 1-0 lead in the match.
The teams then traded the lead throughout the second game. Bentonville seemed to have some breathing room after taking a 24-21 lead, but Van Buren (11-14, 2-10) fought back.
An ace from Sidnee Carter and a block by freshman Emilee Aaron tied it at 24. The Pointerettes then took the lead on the next play after Bentonville committed a hitting error, but Van Buren committed a service error and on the next two plays, Lady Tiger sophomore Sadie Pate delivered back-to-back kills to pull it out.
"I was hoping that second game we would come up and finish there and we fell short, but we went toe-to-toe with them and I can’t say that I’m disappointed in that," Hill said.
"Bentonville’s No. 1 for a reason, they’ve got hitters that can just put the ball away and they’ve got very good setters that will give the hitters the ball, and I thought at times our block was able to get their hands on the ball and it kind of got them a little out of sync and that’s what this game is about, whoever can keep the other team off-balance better."
The Lady Tigers never trailed in the third game, scoring the first three points and later reeling off six straight points to forge a commanding 20-9 lead. But Van Buren continued to fight back, and got within six twice, the latter at 24-18 before a kill from Hornsby ended the match.
"We were just focusing on not letting them get any runs," Smith said. "We may have had a big point and then we would just kind of sit back, have a big point and kind of sit back and once we figured out we had to take care of our side, then we started to score really nicely."
Junior outside hitter Anna LeDuc finished with 11 kills while Pate added seven. Bruce finished with 13 digs, while junior Haley Seyfarth recorded 27 assists. As a team, the Lady Tigers had 10 aces and five blocks.
Van Buren got six kills from sophomore Greer Rogers, as well as five apiece from Aaron and junior Chloe Bauman. Sophomore Abbi Davis had 10 assists, while junior Tori Stafford added nine assists as well as five digs.