By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In a contest between two evenly matched foes, the Blue Eye Bulldogs defeated the Warriors of New Covenant Academy, 3-0 (25-23, 28-26, 25-23). This is Blue Eye’s second district title in the school’s history, with the first one coming in 2018.
“I thought overall we played very well,” said Blue Eye coach Taylor Wittl. “We had to play back-to-back games so we played a total of seven sets tonight, with just a short little break in between. I think that my girls physically did very well, but mentally we showed up, as well.”
The first set of the night saw Blue Eye jump out to a 17-11 lead, only to have that lead evaporate to three points. Blue Eye responded to New Covenant’s comeback but the Warriors continued the battle, putting them down just one, 23-22. Wittl called a timeout with the one point lead. The Bulldogs took advantage of a New Covenant misplay, putting them up 24-22. New Covenant scored the next point but a hard hit by senior Jozee Riepl put the game away for Blue Eye, up one set.
The second set saw multiple lead changes and multiple runs early but when the game got to 15, neither school could take more than a five point lead. New Covenant had a one point lead, 22-21, when a costly sideout tied the game. The Warriors had set point after senior Macy Seevers’ spike hit the ground on Blue Eye’s side. New Covenant was up 24-23 but they could not close the deal, as Blue Eye fought their way to a 26-25 lead. The two teams continued to swap leads and eventually Blue Eye would end up on top, 28-26.
The third set was a repeat of the first two sets, with each team taking leads and giving them up. Blue Eye jumped out to a 15-10 lead. New Covenant’s senior Jillian Ehlers’ hard hit ball stopped the Bulldogs’ momentum, though only briefly. Blue Eye saw their lead extend to 18-11 but Coach Wittl knew that the Warriors would not go away easily. New Covenant fought and clawed their way back to just a one point deficit, 22-21. They never could tie the Bulldogs as Blue Eye held on, eventually winning the third set, 25-23.
One of the key factors in tonight’s three set win for Blue Eye was their lone senior, Jozee Riepl. She had a strong night, both defensively and offensively.
“It was very exciting and I’m glad that we get to host it (sectionals) on Saturday,” said Riepl. “I think we’ll come in with a win and be confident in our own gym. Tonight our communication was good. We’ve struggled with serves this year but we really pulled through and pushed tonight. I think we are going to be even better on Saturday.”
Coach Wittl was proud of the way her girls played with tenacity and perseverance.
“In the third set, I think that they just wanted it, and we’ve been talking about how we are going to walk out of here, we get to decide how tonight ends,” said Wittl. “They wanted to walk out of here with the plaque and so they went and did it. We can build on some of our strong points and be even better going into sectionals.”
Blue Eye will host the sectionals on Saturday.
Blue Eye 25 28 25
New Covenant Academy 23 26 23