Defending champs end Lady Hornets’ season at State

CONWAY — A long and athletic Fayetteville Lady Bulldogs team, the two-time defending Class 7A champion, proved to be more than the Bryant Lady Hornets could handle in the first round of the 2017 Class 7A State Tournament at Buzz Bolding Arena on Tuesday.

The Lady Hornets’ season concluded with the 16-25, 7-25, 14-25 loss.

Fayetteville, with five players over six-feet tall, repeatedly hammered attacks that the Lady Hornets struggled to block and even to dig for much of the match. Haley Warner, a 6-2 senior lefty, had 18 kills and five blocks.

The Lady Hornets were able to hang with the defending champs for much of the first set, leading early. Senior Ashlyn Lee scored on a dink then served for an ace to make it 3-1. After Warner’s first kill for a side-out, a passing error by the Lady Bulldogs gave Bryant the serve with a 4-2 edge. But Warner scored on a kill and a block to even the score.

The Lady Hornets’ last lead of the day came when Alyssa Hernandez knocked down a kill to make it 5-4.

The game was tied at 5 and at 6 before Fayetteville put together a push to 13-7 that forced a timeout by Bryant head coach Beth Solomon.

A hitting error forced a side-out and a kill by libero Cassie Ray coupled with Kyla Baker’s ace cut the margin to 10-13 but the Lady Hornets just weren’t able to put a run of their own together. Kills by senior Raven Loveless, sophomore Grace Camferdam and junior Faith Stone kept them close for a while — Stone’s kill made it 15-20 — but a service error by the Lady Hornets and two kills by Warner helped close it out for the Lady Bulldogs.

In the second set, 6-1 Rosanna Hicks and Warner each had two kills and Ella May Powell added an ace as Fayetteville pushed out to a 7-0 lead. Bryant’s points all came on Lady Bulldog errors until Stone scored off a block to make it 4-14. It was 4-19 before the junior hitter got another block as Fayetteville dominated the set.

To their credit, the Lady Hornets bounced back to play a tough third set. They never led, however. Loveless had a kill early to make it 1-1 but, before she could knock down a second attack, Fayetteville built a 4-1 edge.

Bryant was within 5-8 before, sparked by Hicks, Warner and Powell, the Lady Bulldogs pushed the margin to 13-5. Lee got a kill to stop that run and a pair of Fayetteville miscues allowed the Lady Hornets back within 9-13 before Powell’s kill, which she followed up with an ace.

Despite two more kills from Loveless and another from Lee, the Lady Hornets were never able to get that close again as Fayetteville closed out the victory, advancing to a second-round match with North Little Rock.

The contest marked the end of the high school careers of Loveless, Lee, Baker, Macey Loudon and Reagan Dabbs.

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