Fort Smith has long been a hotbed of volleyball greatness.
That was never more evident than the last Saturday in October, when four area high schools — Southside, Greenwood, Paris and Lavaca — played for state championships.
For Paris, the school’s fourth straight state championship proved not even a coaching change can spoil the school’s bid for another title.
Jordan Devine stepped in as Wes Davis’ replacement and, led by hard-hitting Ryleigh Hardwicke and Joni Inman, Paris rolled through the regular season and state playoffs with vengeance.
The third annual River Valley BOP banquet will be May 30 at the Fort Smith Convention Center. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas is the celebrity guest of honor.
Along with Hardwicke and Inman and teammate Eliciah Kury were named to the squad.
It was a just as emotional year for the Southside Mavericks. Coach Steve Haaser earned his 1,000th career victory in September, and seniors Hannah Holland, Emily Bass and Sarah Tolbert paved the way for a berth in the 7A finals.
Holland, Bass and sophomore hitter Avery Fitzgerald were named to the BOP. The Mavericks, 32-4 in 2018, may be even tougher to beat in 2019, with a number of key players returning.
Greenwood, which was trying to repeat for the first time in school history, will have most of its team back in 2019 as well. Senior Abby Cagle and juniors Camryn Presley and Zoie Benton were named to the BOP.
The final nine BOP slots were difficult decisions. Lavaca’s Hope Headley and Hannah Parson were selected to the BOP.
The remaining players include Northside standout K’zaria Fisher, hard-hitting Alex Dupree of Van Buren and Audrie Chaney, who led upstart Hackett to its biggest season to date.
Charleston’s Jadyn Womack and Mansfield’s Rylea Weaver were also named to the Best of Preps team.
River Valley Best of Preps Volleyball Team
1. Ryleigh Hardwicke, Paris
2. Joni Inman, Paris
3. Eliciah Kury, Paris
4. Avery Fitzgerald, Southside
5. Hannah Holland, Southside
6. Emily Bass, Southside
7. Abby Cagle, Greenwood
8. Camryn Presley, Greenwood
9. K’zaria Fisher, Northside
10. Rylea Weaver, Mansfield
11. Jadyn Womack, Charleston
12. Alex Dupree, Van Buren
13. Hannah Parsons, Lavaca
14. Zoie Benton, Greenwood
15. Hope Headley, Lavaca
16. Audrie Chaney, Hackett