ALMA — Early Tuesday, it looked like Alma was just satisified with being in the postseason.
But after coach Tiffaney Drinkwitz reminded her players they could still earn a No. 2 seed at next week’s 5A State Tournament, the Airedalettes found another gear.
Aubrey Bailey and Alexys Criswell had 14 and 10 kills and defensive specialist Haley Ostrander had 32 digs to power Alma to a 17-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-23 win against Harrison.
Alma, (9-4 5A-West) will finish as the No. 2 seed if they beat Morrilton in four sets or fewer Thursday. Morrilton beat Alma in five games earlier this season.
Meanwhile, the Airedalettes own the tiebreaker with Harrison (also 9-4 in the conference) thanks to Tuesday’s win. The Goblins won in five games in Harrison earlier this season.
Alma led the opener, 12-8, before Harrison’s Paige Tigg and Bentley Mara sparked a 17-5 run and a fairly easy win.
“I thought they were pushing too hard,” Drinkwitz said. “There is such a thing as playing too tight. The kids know what’s at stake and I thought that they were trying too hard.”
But Alma regained the momentum in the second game and, sparked by Bailey’s ace, jumped in front, 19-12. After Harrison rallied to within three, a tip by Shelby Harness and Shaylee Sevenstar’s dig helped the team push the lead to 23-17.
“I told them, ‘We’re in the state tournament; we’re just playing for seeding.’ I thought they relaxed and played with a lot of emotion,” Drinkwitz said.
Ostrander continued to come up big in the third game and she had plenty of help.
“I thought everyone played really well,” Drinkwitz said. “Aubrey had a lot of kills, but it’s really a team effort.”
Alma jumped ahead, 8-5, in the third game on back-to-back aces by Sevenstar. Another ace by Brooklyne Lunsford tied the match at 11 and Taylor Short’s ace put the Airedalettes ahead for good at 17-16. Ostrander helped finish the win with another dig and a 22-18 lead.
The Lady Goblins led 11-9 in the early going of the fourth game, but some hitting errors, a block and kill by Bailey and Robin Stewart’s ace capped a 6-0 Airedalettes run.
Harrison clawed back to within one at 21-20. But Criswell’s perfectly placed kill and Ostrander’s ace put the Airedalettes ahead, 23-20.
Again, the Goblins closed to within one but Bailey finished it with her final kill and a 25-23 win.
“We’ve been playing pretty steady,” Drinkwitz said. “Our defense is the key. It’s a real team effort.”