By Rob Patrick
CONWAY — On Senior Night at Buzz Bolding Arena, it was mentioned that the Conway Lady Wampus Cats that were[more] being honored had been a part of teams that had gone 39-0 in 7A-Central Conference matches in their time in the program.
The Bryant Lady Hornets had designs on snapping that streak Tuesday night but the Lady Cats kept rolling winning 25-16, 25-19, 25-10.
Conway clinched another conference championship with the win. Bryant, now 9-3 in conference, remains in second place. Even with a win, the Lady Hornets would’ve needed some unlikely help in the final week of the season to catch the Lady Cats. Either way, they would need to win their final two conference matches — at Van Buren this Thursday and at North Little Rock next Tuesday — to finish in the top two and earn a first-round bye at the State Tournament.
In other words, a win would’ve been a huge lift but it was not imperative to the Lady Hornets’ standing.
“And the girls knew that,” acknowledged Lady Hornets coach Beth Solomon. “So maybe that had something to do with it. I don’t know if they got too hyped up with it or what happened.
“I mean Conway’s gone undefeated for seven years, I think,” she noted. “Since I’ve been at Bryant, I can’t remember them (losing a conference game). I don’t know if that gets in the girls’ heads or what.
“We just weren’t here tonight,” the coach continued. “We had a bad day Saturday (at a tournament in Conway). They’re a good team. They’ve got a good JO (Junior Olympic) program feeding in. They’re a smart team. We’re a smart team too. We just didn’t play smart tonight.”
Conway’s size and depth were impressive. The Lady Cats made few errors and almost always seemed to take advantage of every one the Lady Hornets made.
“Conway would be a typical State tournament-type team,” Solomon commented. “We could’ve played better. We’re better than we played tonight.
“We just didn’t have any leadership out there,” she added. “Nobody stepped up and said I’m going to take charge. Somebody’s got to say, whenever we’re down, ‘I’m going to pick it up.’ We had too many down times. We started getting over some of that inconsistency stuff — obviously with six conference wins in a row — and it was like tonight it just came back.
“But we’ll pull out of this and hopefully get a good solid win Thursday.”
Bryant just couldn’t get any run of points going although there were some extended volleys along the way. In fact, the Lady Hornets were unable to string together more than two points at a time. They never led except at the very start of the third game, 1-0.
In the first game, the first of Brianna White’s team-high 12 kills had Bryant even at 1-1. Later, a kill by Peyton Thacker and an attack error by Conway allowed Bryant to pull within 4-5.
The Lady Hornets were within 6-8 when Conway’s Madison Deyer and Jasmyn Wilkins put together back-to-back kills to extend the margin. A kill by McKenzie Rice and two by White helped Bryant stay close at 10-12 but then Conway put together a 10-1 run to take control of the game.
The second game began with a pair of kills by Wilkins that helped produce a 3-0 lead before Hannah Rice broke serve with a kill for Bryant. An attack error allowed the Lady Hornets to pull within 2-3 and they were still within 5-6 when Conway made its move, putting together an 11-5 stretch.
Sparked by three kills by White, the Lady Hornets whittled the margin to 15-19 forcing Conway’s only timeout of the evening. When play resumed, the momentum swung. Conway pushed it to 22-15 before a kill by Brooke Howell forced a sideout. Taylor West served for two points on Conway miscues but 18-22 was as close as the Lady Hornets could get. Deyer and Bryant’s Alyssa Anderson traded kills but Conway scored on a block by Elizabeth Early and closed out the game on an attack error by the Lady Hornets.
Anderson, who along with teammate Lauren Reed was 9 of 9 on serves, started game three with a point and, later, on a solo block by McKenzie Rice, the game was tied 2-2 but a kill by Sara Stovall put Conway ahead for good.
Bryant was still within 8-13 on a kill by White but the Lady Cats went on an 11-1 blitz on the way to closing out the win.
Along with White’s 12 kills, Howell had seven. Hannah Rice had 21 assists and Reed came up with 14 digs and 18 good serve-receives.
In a JV match, Conway prevailed 25-14, 25-12.