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story.lead_photo.caption TIMES photograph by Mark Humphrey Lady Blackhawks volleyball coach Jessica Woods watches a serve during Thursday's match at Prairie Grove won by the Lady Blackhawks in three straight sets.

PRAIRIE GROVE -- Pea Ridge defeated a young Prairie Grove squad, 25-16, 25-14, 25-19, in three sets Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, in 4A-1 league volleyball action.

Veteran Pea Ridge coach Jessica Woods wasn't taking anything for granted even with the sweep.

"Prairie Grove is a very athletic team," Woods said, explaining her impressions of the youthful Tigers' teamwork to set up an attack. "Prairie Grove showed tonight they've got some fight. They can really work together to make those things happen."

Pea Ridge won in relatively similar fashion, taking games one and two by scores of 25-16 and 25-14; before holding off a fiesty Prairie Grove squad in the third and decisive set.

"We knew it was going to be tough because Jessica has built that program up and they have a lot of girls, from what I understand, that play club volleyball," said Prairie Grove coach Mat Stewart. "You can tell. They're very-well coached. They're very good athletes and they're very good volleyball players, and everything else. So we knew we had our work cut out for us tonight. (That's) a very good team."

The third set was close early before Pea Ridge pulled away extending an 8-6 lead with back-to-back kills concluded by Cassy Porter's stroke to make the score, 11-6. Senior Sophia Nunziato broke the run for Prairie Grove with a kill of her own. Ashlyn Humphrey began another 3-1 Pea Ridge mini-run with a kill. This time Prairie Grove got a kill from sophomore Lexi Light to temporarily halt Pea Ridge's momentum, but the Lady Tigers would get no closer than 14-10 although they grittily battled back from a 19-10 deficit.

Gabby Adams' kill off the net gave the Lady Blackhawks a 21-14 lead. Then a dig went off the ceiling and Pea Ridge didn't get a play, followed by Jansen Williams' kill for Prairie Grove and a pair of hitting errors. The trio of Gracie Easterling (dig), Adams (set) and Josey Goldberg (kill) worked the offense and Pea Ridge moved to 22-17. Humphrey closed out the match with a big hit to make the final, 25-19, in the third set.

"These girls, they're a fun group to watch," Woods said. "We return our entire starting lineup from last year. They are great kids off the court. It's nice that we've got a lot competing in practice. We've got a lot to pull into so it's very exciting, adding to our practices with the young girls fighting."

"I think we got better," Stewart said. "I think we played Pea Ridge better than we played Farmington last week. Again, I think they're one of the top teams in the state, they're going to give people problems; but we got a lot of teams in our conference that are going to give people problems around the state. It's definitely, in my opinion, the deepest conference from top to bottom."

Stewart sees the 4A-1 being the deepest, strongest volleyball conference overall since he began coaching at Prairie Grove three seasons ago.

"In my opinion it is," Stewart said. "When you add Harrison, Farmington, to the mix of Shiloh and Pea Ridge ... up to every school that's in it, Huntsville, Gravette, Berryville obviously. Gentry is also much-improved from last year so. I think we're going to get better as it goes on as well."

Sports on 09/12/2018

Print Headline: Lady Blackhawks sweep Prairie Grove

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