NEWTON — It was close — oh so close — but in the end, the Newton Lady Eagles edged the Paris Lady Tigers in an exciting third set to take the match and the Little Illini Conference championship Thursday at Newton High School.
An undefeated Little Illini conference record and first-place in the LIC was on the line Thursday night, Oct. 18, when the two teams squared off.
In a nail-biter game, Paris dropped a close match to Newton in three sets. The Lady Tigers looked rusty in their first set, falling behind early to the Eagles. The team was not able to get back on track, dropping the opening game 25-14.
Paris suffered multiple hitting errors in the first set of the night, but righted the ship in the second.
Paris Coach Christy Pinkston said all it took for her team to get on track was a reminder to rebound from their first set loss.
“We started to finally get back to placing the ball instead of just swinging into blocks,” Pinkston said. “Once we started doing that we got the momentum back on our side.”
The Lady Tigers dominated the Eagles offensively in the second game o the match, picking apart the Newton backcourt.
The Lady Tigers dominated the set and rolled to a comfortable 25-13 win to even the match at one game apiece.
The third set opened with an electric atmosphere as Paris needed just one set win to seal an incredible season. The two groups went back and forth through the set, answering each team’s run with one of their own.
Paris managed to force an extra point in the set as they came within one at 25-24, but Newton got the final kill of the game, handing Paris its first loss in conference play this season.
“There is no doubt how much we all wanted to win that game,” Pinkston said. “We were up late, we just have to finish the right way.”
Paris ended the regular season 18-8 (7-1 LIC) while Newton finished 25-9 (8-0 LIC). Emma Pinkston led the Paris team in kills with 202 throughout the season. Pinkston also had a team-high 181 digs in 2018.
Lizzie Rouse led the team in blocks, bringing in 50 across the board. The assists category was headed by Payton Block with 451 assists. Sara Burger led the team in aces with 48 service aces through the season.
Paris begins post-season play on the road against Effingham High School Tuesday, Oct. 23. Game time is 6:30 p.m. at Effingham High School. The Lady Tigers retain the #3 seed in the sectional while Effingham is the #5 seed.
“Now that the regular season is over we have a new goal,” Pinkston said “We just have to go out and play Paris volleyball.”