PARIS — On Tuesday, Paris was able to shake off some early nerves to win its opening-round match at the 3A State Tournament.
There were no such issues in Wednesday's quarterfinals, as the Lady Eagles were energetic from the get-go. It helped carry them to a sweep against Walnut Ridge, with Paris winning 25-20, 25-20, 25-17.
"I think our nerves were a little more settled (Wednesday) after that first game (Tuesday)," Paris coach Jordan Devine said. "Like I've said before, it's a whole different atmosphere (for the Lady Eagles to host state), but what's good about this group is that they've been there twice (Paris also hosted state in 2016), so they kind of understand and know what the atmosphere is.
"We did have spurts where we didn't look real good, but I thought we did a really good job of coming out of that and just finishing the sets."
Paris (31-2) will move on to the 3A semifinals on Thursday, taking on Fountain Lake at 3 p.m. The Lady Eagles will be aiming for yet another trip to Hot Springs on Saturday with a chance to win their fourth straight state championship.
Thursday's other semifinal, set for 1 p.m. pits Ashdown against Hoxie.
Paris was led Wednesday by the senior hitting duo of Ryleigh Hardwicke and Joni Inman, who combined for 42 of the Lady Eagles' 47 kills.
"You didn't see much of that (Tuesday), they had 10 and 7, I think, it was more of a serving game," Devine said. "But I was really proud that (Wednesday) they came out and showed what they could do. I felt they had several hits there that (made me say), 'Yep, that's what they can do.'"
Hardwicke had the hot hand early, delivering several kills to help Paris race out to a 13-5 advantage in the opening set.
Walnut Ridge closed to within two points, 14-12, which ironically enough was Paris' lead in Tuesday's first set against Episcopal before the Lady Eagles rolled from there.
Like Tuesday, Paris started pulling away, as Inman recorded four kills during a 6-1 run to help extend the Lady Eagles' lead to seven, 20-13. Hardwicke added a pair of kills down the stretch that helped close out the first set.
In the second set, Paris jumped out to a 9-2 lead before Walnut Ridge chipped away, getting within four, 13-9. But Inman and Hardwicke responded with kills, and Inman proceeded to serve two straight aces to swing momentum back in the Lady Eagles' favor.
Inman also had back-to-back kills to finish things off in the second set to put Paris up 2-0.
"I was really just connecting with my setters; I didn't really get to do that much (Tuesday) because coach Devine said it was more of a serving game and we didn't get a lot of opportunity to run our offense," Inman said. "But (Wednesday) we got rolling and we connected, and it's just always fun when that happens."
While Paris continued to display the power in the third set, there was also some good fortune involved.
Junior libero Robyn Gossard saved a ball using one hand with her back to the net, which led to a Hardwicke kill. Moments later, a ball on a Paris rally on the verge of going side out glanced off a light fixture and back onto the court, where senior Katie King was waiting to deliver a finishing shot.
Strong play at the net once more from Hardwicke and Inman helped Paris maintain a sizable lead, and another ace from Inman put things on ice with the Lady Eagles in front, 23-16.
"I thought our defense played well; Robyn Gossard came out and made some big saves for us," Devine said. "That save she made with one hand, that's what Robyn can do, she's everywhere on the court which is great for us."
Hardwicke finished with 24 kills, which also put her past 1,000 kills in her Lady Eagle career. Inman finished with 18 kills and also served three aces and had 20 digs. Hardwicke added 11 digs.
Also for Paris, Paiton Forbis finished with 26 assists and 12 digs, Eliciah Kury had 16 assists and 11 digs and Gossard finished with 21 digs for the day.
Hoxie 3, Charleston 0
Hoxie ended the Lady Tigers' season in a 3A quarterfinal Wednesday, one day after Charleston (23-9-3) made history by winning its first-ever state tournament match.
The Lady Tigers actually held a 21-17 lead in the opening set and were also in front 22-18 after a kill from Jadyn Womack before Hoxie scored seven straight points to pull out the win. Then with the score tied at 7-all in the next set, Hoxie went on a 13-3 run to build a 20-10 advantage.
Womack recorded 14 kills while Khiley Frederick added six for the Lady Tigers.