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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Fort Smith Southside and Paris Play One for the Ages in a Thrilling Five Set Lady Maverick Win

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It was one of those memorable games that everyone will never forget. Anyone who was in attendance at Paris Gymnasium will never forget the intensity and the great competition between two great high school volleyball programs. When the night was over, Fort Smith Southside left Paris with a big win against the Paris Lady Eagles, but make no mistake…both teams played extremely well, and both teams will benefit from having scheduled the games. Being battle-tested early in the season will be a big plus for both teams heading into their respective conference play next week.

Southside entered the match 1-0 on the young season, having previously defeated Van Buren earlier in the week. Paris, 2-0, entered the game with wins at Russellville and Lavaca. A year ago in Fort Smith, it was the Lady Mavericks handing Paris a severe beating in which Southside dominated in all phases, including a very hard-hitting front line that Paris had no answer for with its young starting line-up. This year’s match would be a measure for the Lady Eagles of how much they have improved and the experience they had gained going into this season.

The first set was an indication of things to come as both teams battled back and forth, exchanging blows like two heavy weight prize fighters. Behind good front line play, Paris began to make up an early deficit, closing the gap to 9-12 in the first set. Southide called time out, and the momentum appeared to be swinging to Paris.

After the timeout, the Paris front line continued to assert itself, highlighted by the play of Paris’s Akira Robinson and Alyssa Komp. Behind the play of the two front line seniors, Paris took the lead, 18-17, forcing Southside to call yet another timeout. The teams then exchanged serves, and at the end of the first set, it was Paris going on for the first set victory, 25-22. The large crowd at Paris Gymnasium went crazy as the Lady Eagles broke the string of consecutive set victories by Southside. The Lady Mavericks appeared a little shell-shocked having dropped the first set to the Class 3A Lady Eagle in the hostile territory of Paris Gymnasium.

But Southside is a great volleyball program, and they know how to overcome adversity. The two teams continued to exchange blows into the second set. The two fighters went back and forth until Southside eventually took a three point lead at 16-13. Paris called time out and when play resumed, the Paris back line refused to let anything drop against the hard return spikes of the Southside front line. The Lady Eagles’ Melanie (Lights Out) Lo, who may be the most improved player on the team this year as a defensive specialist, made one dig after another. Unofficially, Lo had 23 digs on the night.

The battle of the second set raged on with Paris again calling time out with Southside leading 23-21. After the timeout, Paris was not able to close out the game, and the Lady Mavericks evened the match by winning the second set, 25-21. Although it was heart-breaking for the Lady Eagles to lose the set, it was nearly a two-set advantage for Paris, having come close to winning the second. But Southside had evened the match, and you could feel the momentum swing to the Lady Mavericks.

The third set began with Southside coming out of the starting gate strong and dominating Paris. It appeared that the Lady Mavericks had found their stride, and perhaps…the match may be going Southside’s way. The Lady Mavericks pulled out to a 10-6 lead when Paris called their first time out. But the Lady Eagles could not answer the power hitters of Southside, and the lead eventually stretched to 20-13 for the Lady Mavericks before Paris called their second time out. But eventually, Southside won the third set going away by the score of 25-16 in the most dominant score of the match.

Resident Press Photo / Jim Best

With Southside ahead in the match two games to one, everyone wanted to see how Paris would react to being down and facing another loss to Southside. The Lady Mavericks began the fourth set by taking the first three points, and the feeling was that the Lady Mavericks were about to close out the match. But the Lady Eagles fought back with great determination and great team play. As the two teams continued to fight in an adrenline-packed match, it was Paris taking the lead 17-14 in the set, forcing a Southside timeout. The Paris Gymnasium student section and crowd was going crazy on every point. After the time out, Paris increased their lead to 20-16 when Southside was forced to take another time out. But at the end of the fourth set, it was the Western Wall of Paris holding up to the front line of Southside as the Lady Eagles won the fourth set 25-19, forcing a decisive fifth set.

The Lady Eagles started the fifth set with some sloppy play; one had to wonder if Paris had exerted a lot of emotional energy in the warm Paris Gymnasium in the fourth set, forcing a fifth. Paris called time out early, down 1-5 to Southside to start the set. But as they had all night long, the Lady Eagles came soaring back, evening the score at 6, and forcing the Lady Maverick to call time.

Both teams continued to play extremely hard. So many players on both teams were contributing to a great match. The adrenaline was flowing, and the crowd was hanging on every point. Paris called time out in the fifth with Southside leading 13-10 in the 15 point tie breaking set. And from that point, Southside was able to hang on to win the set and the match by the score of 15-12 in the fifth.

With the win, Southside improved their record to 2-0, and Paris’s dropped their season record to 2-1. The Lady Eagles will now play in Little Rock on Saturday in the Spikefest invitational tournament. But most importantly, Paris will be in Charleston on Tuesday to open conference play against the Lady Tigers.

There are so many positives for both teams to take away from this great, non-conference match. Both teams are very good and played very hard with great character and determination. And that should serve them both well as their seasons continue. I look for both teams to go deep into the state tournament.

But for Paris, it was a total team effort where no one quit or hung their heads when Southside was up two sets to one, and started the fourth set in strong fashion. The Lady Eagles continued to play hard and fight their way back to a big fourth set victory to give themselves a chance to win in a fifth set. All Paris fans can be very proud of this group, and if they continue to play with great effort and intensity, they should be difficult to beat for the rest of their schedule.

It was one of those athletic contests that makes a fan feel privileged to be able to attend and watch the great effort and team play that both teams exhibited. And like the title to this story says, it was one for the ages.

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