PARIS — Paris volleyball coach Jordan Devine didn’t have to remind her players about the banners on the walls; the tradition sitting in the bleachers.
All she had to do was look in their eyes.
The Lady Eagles rallied from an 11-8 deficit in the third and final set Saturday for a thrilling 18-25, 25-13, 15-12 victory over Mena on Saturday night in the Gold Bracket of the Paris Invitational at Eagle Gym.
The Lady Eagles (31-1) looked tight in the opener. But after calming down, Paris dominated the second game to force a third and deciding set.
Again, after falling behind in the final game, Paris didn’t waver.
“I was really proud of them when we got down (11-8); I didn’t see that panic (look) that we’ve seen before,” Devine said. “I thought our sophomores had a hard first set, but they came up big for us in the second and third games.”
Faith Mainer’s kill gave the Eagles a quick 3-0 lead in the final game. But Mena rallied for a 6-5 lead. Paris’ Lauren Earl pulled the Eagles within 8-7, but Mena forged in front by three (11-8).
Paris, however, was far from finished.
“I’m really proud of this group and their fight,” Devine said. “I was really honest with them after that first set. I told them, ‘You’ve gotta play big in big.’
“Or, you’re going to be disappointed.”
Devine praised the play of senior libero Robyn Gossard. Even in the first game, despite poor hitting and playing a little flat, Gossard was everywhere.
“She just keeps the ball alive,” Devine said. “She reads so well, and she’s quick. She’s pretty small, but she can cover a lot of area.”
Mena, which beat Fountain Lake in the semifinals, fell behind 13-12 on Mainer’s kill in the first set. Another Paris point gave the Eagles a 14-12 cushion — their biggest in the first game.
But Mena caught fire and outscored the Eagles 13-4 to take the first set.
Mainer’s block helped give the Eagles a 5-1 lead in game two. Gossard’s ace and Paiton Forbis’ kill put the Eagles ahead 14-6 in game two.
Another kill by sophomore Jacee Hart extended Paris’ lead to 10 (16-6).
But Mena (26-4) closed to within 17-11 in the second set, leading to a Paris timeout.
Another Earl ace put the Eagles on easy street (22-12), setting up a winner-take-all match.