By Rob Patrick
LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Lady Hornets were enthused and having fun at the start of their 7A/6A-Central Conference clash with[more] the Mount St. Mary Belles at the McAuley Center on Tuesday night.
They rolled out to a 4-1 lead and maintained the advantage for much of the first game answering every charge by the Belles, even when they briefly relinquished the lead. They closed out the game with a 7-2 run to win it 25-22.
The second game, however, started with an 11-0 surge by the Belles and though the Lady Hornets outscored them the rest of the game, the resulting 19-25 loss set the trend for the evening as Mount won the last two 25-17, 25-21 to win the match.
The question is, did the 11-0 start to game two quiet that initial enthusiasm or did a wane in that enthusiasm, lead to the Belles’ run?
After the match, head coach Beth Solomon’s view leaned toward the latter.
“That’s the biggest thing, that’s what’s hurting us right now,” she stated. “We get going, going, going and then we just let down. We win the first game all fired up then, in the second game, give them 11 points. I mean, it’s ridiculous. We’ve got to fix it.
“They all kind of stopped playing at the start of that second game and we let them have way too many points,” she added. “You know when we end up losing by six when we spotted them 11, that tells you exactly what’s going on.”
In a junior varsity match, Mount prevailed 25-12, 25-12.
The Lady Hornets varsity produced 30 kills in the match including 10 by McKenzie Rice and seven by Brooke Howell with six others joining in. They had seven solo blocks and combined on four more. But that, Solomon said, wasn’t the problem.
“Serve-receive and passing killed us,” she stated. “That was our biggest thing tonight. And it’s been, for the most part, the other way around. Our hitting and our blocking, we really focused on (Monday) and we got fixed pretty good for the most part but our passes weren’t there tonight to help it. That made a big difference.”
Statistically, the Lady Hornets made 18 errors in serve-receive and 13 miscues passing.
Hannah Rice had 21 assists but no one else had more than one. She also led with 15 digs.
The team served pretty well, good on 90 percent with nine aces including four by Alyssa Anderson.
She was serving as the Lady Hornets got out to the 4-1 lead at the start of the first game of the match. One of her aces came during that run. Brianna White scored off a pair of blocks and had a kill.
The Lady Hornets maintained the advantage by as much as 12-8 before the Belles rallied and pulled ahead 15-13. But a spike by Howell broke serve and she followed with a service ace to tie it.
It was knotted at 17 and 18 as well before the Belles regained the upper hand briefly. It was 18-20 before McKenzie Rice came through with a kill then served up a pair of aces to get the Lady Hornets back on top.
A serving error tied the game but Mount St. Mary returned the favor and the Lady Hornets closed out the game with Anderson and Hannah Rice serving and White pounding a clinching kill to set up game-point. A hitting error provided the final tally.
During the rugged start of the second game, Bryant was unable to successfully return a serve five times. Finally, it was a hitting error that allowed the Lady Hornets to break serve.
A kill by Courtney Davidson interrupted as the Lady Hornets started to whittle on the lead but the margin was 16-4 at one point, moving Solomon to take her second timeout of the game.
Howell’s kill started Bryant’s comeback. She served up an ace then McKenzie Rice contributed a flurry of kills. Anderson, Howell and White scored as well along the way as Bryant pulled within 19-23. But Mount took the next two points to hang on for the win.
Anderson got the Lady Hornets off to a good start again in game three. With Howell scoring off a dink, it was 3-1, then 4-2. That’s when the Belles went on another run. This time, it was an 11-1 surge.
Again, Bryant came back but it was, again, too big a hole to completely climb out of. When they cut it to 14-17 on a hitting error by the Belles, it was as, unfortunately, as close as they would get.
At the start of game four, it looked like the Lady Hornets had regained their mojo. After an ace by the Belles, Bryant broke serve when Anderson and Howell combined on a block. With Anderson serving, starting with an ace, the Lady Hornets went on an 8-0 blitz than included kills by Hannah Rice, Howell and McKenzie Rice. A scoring block by Hannah Rice and White completed the run.
After a timeout, the Belles broke serve and gradually climbed back into the game though Bryant maintained the upper hand until Mount tied it at 14. Solomon called timeout and, after surrendering the lead momentarily, the Lady Hornets responded, pushing back out to a 20-15 advantage.
It looked like they were going to force a fifth and deciding game but they managed just one point the rest of the game as Mount St. Mary rallied to win the game and close out the match.
In the JV match, the Lady Hornets had just nine kills and three blocks. Davidson had four of the blocks, Aubree Allen three. Erica Smith contributed two solo blocks.
Carley Choate produced six assists and Davidson led with six digs. But the Bryant girls were just 53 percent on serve-receive.