HOT SPRINGS — Paris volleyball coach Wesley K. Davis knows all about the peaks and valleys of volleyball momentum.
But he also knows teenagers tend to have their own momentum streaks, too.
Down 16-12 in the first set Saturday, then down 25-24 later in the opening set, Paris fought back for a 27-25, 25-11, 25-13 win over Hoxie in the 3A state volleyball championship match at Summit Arena in Hot Springs.
Paris’ third straight state title didn’t start off the way Davis expected. The experienced Lady Eagles had trouble with serves. They couldn’t dig, either.
Then, with the momentum swing favoring Hoxie, who had quietly pushed its lead to four, Davis tried in vain to get the officials attention for a timeout.
“She (official) didn’t hear me,” kidded Davis said. “We really had the jitters, and for a group that’s been here, that shocked me a little. But we recovered from it, and four years ago we didn’t.”
After the first set, however, it was as if the red sea opened up.
Setter Riley Owen got back to setting hitters Ryleigh Hardwicke and Brynn Simmons, and Jenna Lowery began getting to every loose ball.
“Once we got settled in, once we started playing our game, we got going,” Jenna Lowery said. “I think it was all nerves.”
“I think it helps, being in this arena, knowing what to expect,” Davis said. “They’ve been here since junior high coming to watch.”
Clutching the Most Valuable Player trophy, awarded to her for her stellar libero play, Lowery was thankful for her teammates and not bashful about heaping praise toward Davis.
“I think we really owe everything to coach K (Davis), he’s really brought this program so far,” Lowery said. “I’m really proud of him and thankful for everything he’s done.”
Lowery finished with 30 digs as Paris (35-2) finished off its third straight championship without much of a push.
Hardwicke, who finished with 16 kills, including some emphatic blasts that helped swing the momentum in the second game, couldn’t explain the slow start.
But she knew the team was OK following a quick start in game two.
“The first set, we were very nervous,” she said. “We had been there before, but we had to go and run with it. We played Hoxie before in the past, and had beaten them, but we were still nervous.”
“A lot of it is you’re in the state finals and you don’t want to lose,” senior setter Riley Owen said. “It’s a big arena, but after that first game, everyone was over it.”
Owen finished with 40 assists and, like the other nine Paris seniors, finished their careers with three straight state titles.
“It means a lot to us and our program,” Owen said. “We had been to the finals for six years, and winning state is an incredible feeling for anyone.”
Hardwicke echoed those feelings.
“It’s such a blessing,” she said. “Coach K is blessing; we’ve got him from seventh grade all the way up. I had him in sixth grade in PE, and it’s been an amazing time with him.”
Paris began the season with 17 straight wins before losing to Greenwood, which on Saturday won its second overall state title. The expectations to repeat were there from the first day of practice, Hardwicke said.
“They kept saying, ‘We’ll see you at Summit in the state championship.’ But we wanted to finish the season and go game-to-game,” she said.
“She’s played great all year; she’s been a cannon for us,” Davis said. “There have been some games where numbers could be different than what they are, because we rotate her out right off the bat, and there are some games where she doesn’t get to rotate back in. I like having her up there (front row) when Riley Owen is up there.”
Along with Hardwicke, Simmons had nine kills and Joni Inmann and Caroline Hart finished with seven and five, respectively.
Junior Eliciah Kury had two kills.