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Arkansas volleyball 4A state championship: Brookland earns repeat title

Lady Bearcats defeat Shiloh Christian in the final for the second consecutive season

HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS — Brookland made it two in a row Saturday night at Bank OZK Arena in the Class 4A state championship. 

The Lady Bearcats (34-4-1) defeated Shiloh Christian (29-7) 25-22, 28-26, 25-19 for the second consecutive year. 

"This one is great,” said Brookland head coach Nancy Rodriguez. “I have a lot of seniors on that court and worked with them a lot of years, and for them to get to this point to do it their senior year is super sweet.”

Libero Rylee Walker was named MVP of the state tournament with 28 digs and three aces. Evan Polsgrove led Brookland with 13 kills and 13 digs, while Maddie Smith had 12 kills. Chloe Rodriguez, the MVP of last year’s state tournament, had 34 assists, 10 digs and five kills.

Shiloh Christian, which was hoping to win after falling short to Brookland a year ago, was led by Chloe Blessing, who had 14 kills. Laila Creighton had 23 assists. Bella Bonanno had 33 digs and Savvy Williams 10 digs as well.

Arkansas Volleyball State Title Matches

2A | 3A | 5A | 6A

“I thought Brookland played steady while we had some ups and downs and it seemed like when they had long rallies, that went in their favor and takes momentum out of you,” said Shiloh Christian head coach Nathan Bodenstein.

Brookland overcame a 14-13 deficit in the first set to score five consecutive points to lead 18-14. Trailing 24-19, Shiloh scored three consecutive points to get to 24-22 before an attack by Blessing went wide to end the set.

In the second set, Brookland trailed by one, 26-25, before a kill by Cassidy King tied the match. Two attack errors by Shiloh’s Audrey Pender sealed the set for Brookland.

Brookland led 13-12 in the final set before scoring five of the next six points to lead 18-13, and Shiloh got no closer than three points twice (19-16 and 20-17).

After playing a non-conference schedule that featured Tennessee power Collierville, 6A runner-up Conway, 5A finalist Benton, 5A power Valley View and 3A champion Baptist Prep, Rodriguez felt her team was ready for whatever was thrown at her in the finals.

“I don’t think there’s anything we didn’t see,” said Nancy Rodriguez. “I wanted to challenge them. We had four losses and I never thought we would have four losses out of that schedule. We played a lot of games.”

Brookland players swarm the court after winning the Class 4A state volleyball championship Oct. 28, 2023.

Brookland players swarm the court after winning the Class 4A state volleyball championship Oct. 28, 2023.



Walker was named MVP on the strength of her digs and her serving ability and Rodriguez had no problem with her getting the award.

“She busted her tail,” said Rodriguez. “Last year, there were times she got nervous. (Saturday), there weren’t any nerves. She is what kept us in the game.

"You could have given it to so many players. We would not be where we were without her. She was the MVP. She keeps us in the game, she was all over the game. She served well, got some aces.”


While the Lady Bearcats hit .109 as a team, Rodriguez liked the fact her team was able to settle down and get better as the game went along.

“I thought the first set, we were not cohesive,” said Rodriguez. “There were a lot of nerves.

"A lot of that is playing with a target on your back and with seniors one last time. As the match went on, they settled in and played well.”


While Bodenstein was disappointed not to avenge last year’s defeat, he was proud of the way his team got back to the state finals again.

“I don’t know how many teams there are in 4A, but it is special to get here," he said. "We had to replace four starters and had two sophomores step into the lineup. We had a great season.

"Next year, we move up to 5A and right now, we feel we’re in a special place.”

-- Jeff Halpern | @SBLiveAR