After a long season of 37 matches, the Greenwood Lady Bulldogs concluded their 2018 campaign with a straight set loss in the Class 5A state finals last Saturday. The GHS girls finished with a record of 30-6-1, winning at least 30 matches for the third year in a row.
Also, for the third consecutive year Greenwood and Jonesboro met in the finals. Greenwood won last year, but the Lady Hurricane turned the tables last weekend, winning 26-24, 25-12, and 25-16. Jonesboro also topped the Lady Bulldogs in 2016.
Head Coach Jennifer Golden and her girls breezed through the first two rounds of the state tournament played at Jonesboro, easily beating Little Rock Parkview and Paragould, before being pushed to the limit by Nettleton. But in the end, they won all three matches in straight sets (3-0). The finals were held at Bank of Ozarks Arena in the Hot Springs Convention Center.
The Lady Patriots were never really in the match last Tuesday, losing in three lopsided sets, 25-5, 25-5, and 25-7. Parkview was the fourth seed from the 5A Central, while Greenwood represented the best of the 5A West.
Senior Abby Cagle and junior Zoie Benton led Greenwood with 10 kills each, followed by junior Camryn Presley with eight. Sophomore Sami Stilley had three service aces, while sophomore Anna Johnson and junior Izzy Davis had two each.
Davis led the squad in digs with seven, while Benton had four. Johnson led Greenwood with 21 assists, followed by Presley with nine. Davis also had six service receptions.
The Lady Rams were the two seed from the 5A East, second only to Jonesboro, and put up a good fight in the opening set against Greenwood. But the Lady Bulldogs ultimately prevailed with a 26-24 victory last Wednesday. They went on to take the next two sets more handily, 25-15, 25-17.
Zoie Benton led Greenwood offensively with 16 kill shots, followed by Abby Cagle with 10 and Camryn Presley with eight. Junior Josie Chapple has a pair of service aces.
Three GHS players reached double digits in digs, led by Izzy Davis with 18. She was followed by Benton with 12 and Presley with 11. Presley also had 14 assists, while Davis (15), Chapple (12), and Benton (11) led the team in service receptions.
The Lady Raiders, the three seed from the East, proved to be the most difficult opponent for Greenwood in the tournament last Thursday, severely challenging the Lady Bulldogs in all three sets, 25-20, 27-25, and 25-23.
Abby Cagle had a great game offensively with 20 kills, followed by Camryn Presley with 14, Zoie Benton with nine, and sophomore Larkin Luke with eight.
Izzy Davis led her teammates with 22 digs, followed by Benton (13), Chapple (12), Presley (10), Cagle (8), and Anna Johnson (6). Presley had 26 assists with Johnson right behind with 25. Davis had 24 service receptions, followed by Benton with 17 and Chapple with 12.
The state finals last Saturday was a 3-0 sweep for the Lady Hurricane, but it really came down to the critical opening set. Greenwood trailed 23-19 before scoring five unanswered points to surge ahead 24-23, but could not maintain the momentum or put Jonesboro away.
The Lady ‘Canes then rallied to win 26-24 and used that emotional energy to take the next two sets more handily, 25-12 and 25-16. It was the 13th state championship for the Jonesboro girls.
Jonesboro Head Coach Craig Cummings said of his team, “They got that first game out of the way, and from there they continued to get stronger and play with more confidence.”
Coach Golden said of her team’s efforts to claw back into the lead in the first set, “It goes back to how hard we played all year and how hard we fight. We had our chances in that first set, we just didn’t execute like we should have. Jonesboro is a good team. We just got beat today.”
Junior Brooke Jones led the way early, helping the Lady Bulldogs rally from a 5-0 deficit to start the opening set. Greenwood went on to lead 8-6 before the Lady Hurricane blew past them to take a 17-14 advantage.
The two squads then traded scoring runs, started by Greenwood’s 3-0 sprint to tie the score at 17, followed by Jonesboro’s response, a 4-0 push to take a 21-17 lead.
They split the next four points, with Greenwood trailing 23-19 before that late 5-0 run put them ahead by a point, 24-23. A kill shot by sophomore Hannah Watkins sparked the rally for the Lady Bulldogs, and a pair of blocks by Larkin Luke tied the score at 23-all. But Greenwood would score only once more.
“They played really hard, but that was a killer,” said GHS senior Abby Cagle of losing the opening set. “I love my team. We played really great.” Cagle is one of only three seniors for Greenwood.
Statistically, the Lady Bulldogs were led in kill shots by Cagle, Zoie Benton, and Camryn Presley, all with seven each. Benton also led in digs with 12, followed by Izzy Davis with 11, Josie Chapple with eight, and Presley with seven.
Presley and Anna Johnson led the team in assists with 12 each, while Davis had an amazing 38 service receptions. Benton was second with 14.