St. Joseph volleyball coach Luke Davis knows his Lady Bulldogs can have success when each team member contributes.
That contribution led to a school first, as St. Joseph swept crosstown-rival Conway Christian 25-13, 25-10, 25-16 Tuesday night at the Family Activity Center to capture the program’s first 3A-Central Conference tournament championship. The Lady Bulldogs, who improved their unbeaten record to 19-0, also finished as the regular season conference championship.
"Everybody contributed," Davis said. "Throughout the year, we’ve had times where two, three or four people contributed. (Tuesday) everyone did."
The Lady Bulldogs will take the No. 1 seed into next week’s Class 3A state tournament in Harrison and will play the third seed from the North at noon Tuesday. The Lady Eagles will face the top seed from the Northwest at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The win marked the third time St. Joseph defeated CCS this season. Part of that can be attributed to a solid defensive showing.
"Defensively, we needed a little more aggressiveness," Lady Eagles coach Heather Slocum said. "They (Lady Bulldogs) did a great job on defense."
The offense wasn’t too shabby, either.
"Our hitting was really on," Davis said.
That mix of hitting and defense helped St. Joseph spark some strong runs, including opening the match on an 8-1 run. CCS scored the next three points behind kills from Summerlin Criswell and Taylor Guinn and a block from Mary Nabholz, but the Lady Bulldogs quickly regained momentum and took control of the first game.
The Lady Eagles had a run of their own to start the second game. CCS opened with a 5-0 lead, but a kill from Katie Reinhard and two more from Amy Schichtl helped cap a six-point swing in St. Joseph’s favor. Such instances kept the Lady Eagles from soaring higher.
"We’d go through spurts but never could capitalize," Slocum said. "We did some things I’ve never seen us do. I was proud to see that."
After St. Joseph went up 6-5, CCS tied the score after a Lady Bulldog error. However, back-to-back errors by the Lady Eagles put St. Joseph back in front, and the Lady Bulldogs never trailed again for the remainder of the match.
That’s just how things have gone for St. Joseph, as the perfect record shows. However, that doesn’t mean the competition will be push-overs, especially when the state tournament rolls around.
"After this season, we should go in with confidence, but we can’t look past anyone," Davis said. "... The North, Northeast and Northwest has always been tough. We’re definitely going to have to bring our ‘A’ game."
Schicthl finished with 13 kills and two aces for the Lady Bulldogs. Veronica Bausom, who had nine digs, and Katie Reinhard had six kills each. Jordan Justice had eight digs and two aces, while Jessica Justice contributed 19 assists.
Guinn led CCS with five kills and 14 dig and added a pair of aces. Morgan May had three kills, while Criswell dished out six assists. Nabholz had 11 didgs, while Robbi Riggs and Olivia Meriweather had 10 each.
Reinhard and Schichtl of St. Joseph and the CCS duo of Nabholz and Guinn were named to the all-tournament team. Jessica Justice was named the Most Valuable Player.
The Lady Bulldogs reached the finals after defeating Nemo Vista 25-20, 25-13, 25-11 in the semifinals Monday night.
Schichtl and Courtney Briggler had nine kills each. Bausom added 21 digs, and Jordan Justice had 19. Jessica Justice contributed 26 assists.
Bausom, Jordan Justice and Torri Carter had two aces each.
"My hitters showed up," Davis said. "Amy, Courtney and Katie had great games."
Conway Christian took a 25-11, 15-25, 25-22, 17-25, 15-10 victory over Cave City on Monday in its semifinal matchup.
Guinn had 15 kills, Nabholz 10 and May nine. Criswell had 22 assists and Guinn 11. Meriweather and May had three aces while Criswell, Nabholz an Guinn had two.
Nabholz added 35 diggs, Riggs 27 and Guinn 25. Nabholz had five blocks and May three. May added four other blocks and Lexi Dather two.
"We played like a team, the chemistry of the team peaked, and I couldn’t be happier," Slocum said.