Freshman girls continue improvement, notch win in conference opener
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CABOT — A coach wants nothing more than to see her team improve, from the start of the season to the end but also[more] from one contest to the next. And just so, Bryant Lady Hornets freshman volleyball coach Monica Parish has been quite pleased with her team in its last two matches.
The Lady Hornets rolled to a 2-0 sweep of the Cabot North Lady Panthers on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 25-18, 25-12. The win came on the heels of a trip to Lake Hamilton on Thursday, Sept. 1, in which the Lady Hornets lost, 25-23, 25-27, 18-25, but showed considerable improvement over a quality opponent over its performance at Conway Blue earlier in the week.
Now 2-2 overall, the Lady Hornets’ win over Cabot North counted in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference standings. It was the only regular-season meeting between the two teams. Team in the league that Bryant plays twice during the regular season will play matches that count towards the conference standings the second time around.
After three straight road matches, the Lady Hornets host just their second match of the season this Thursday against Conway White in a non-conference outing.
“We could tell that we had a three-day weekend,” Parish allowed regarding Tuesday’s first game at Cabot. “The girls were flat. There was no talking and they were not playing as a team, but good enough to win.”
Cabot North led 8-7 when Taylor Lindberg took over serving after the Lady Hornets broke serve. She immediately placed a pair of aces and Bryant took a 10-8 lead before giving up control.
The Lady Panthers tied it 12-12 when Bryant broke serve to take a one-point lead. Mercedes Dillard served as the Bryant surged to a 17-12 lead. The run included two more aces.
An ace by Haley Dellis extended the lead to 20-16 and, moments later, Nikki Clay closed out the win serving for the last five points including a game-point ace.
“Between games, I challenged the girls to play like they should,” Parish said. “We played better with more energy and more talking. There were some mistakes but we played better.”
The Lady Hornets surged early. Leading 3-2 with Rylee Phillips rotating into service, they extended the margin to 8-2 before giving up control. Along the way Phillips not only drilled an ace, she set up kills for Lindberg and Clay to cap the run.
Cabot North broke serve but Bryant got it back right away and Dellis served as the lead grew to 13-3. She contributed two aces and Abby Staton turned in a nice play at the net.
Clay added an ace to make it 15-6 then set up Phillips whose kill made it 17-7.
Staton served up two aces during a run that pushed the advantage to 20-8. Dillard then closed it out after the Lady Panthers trimmed the margin to 21-11.
Phillips led the team with six kills. Lindberg had three and Clay two. Each had three assists as well. Staton contributed six digs with Lindberg coming up with four and Clay thee.
In service, Dillard led with four aces. Clay and Dellis had three each with Lindberg and Staton adding two apiece.
“We are happy with our first conference win,” Parish stated. “Focus now turns toward Conway White. Our focus needs to be on being consistent.”
At Lake Hamilton, every game of the match was close with the Lady Hornets prevailing in the opener.
A kill by Phillips off a feed from Clay broke serve for the Lady Hornets early. With Dillard producing a pair of aces, Bryant put together a 4-0 run to take the advantage.
The margin was just 9-8 when Dellis served for points 10 through 12, highlighted by Clay’s kill off a set from Phillips.
The Lady Wolves rallied however with a 5-0 counterattack to take a 13-12 edge. The Lady Hornets tied it when they broke serve and Staton served as they crept ahead on a pair of hits by Clay including a kill.
The game was eventually tied at 17 when Clay began a turn in service that garnered four points with Phillips contributing a pair of kills.
Bryant led 23-18 but Lake Hamilton rallied to tie.
“We had a series of passing and hitting errors,” Parish mentioned. “Then we finally rallied out.”
The Lady Hornets held the upper hand early in the second game when they broke serve to tie it 1-1 and Dillard served it to 5-1. She had two aces while Phillips and Staton contributed kills.
The teams battled back and forth until, up 10-8, Lake Hamilton went on a 7-0 run. Dillard’s serve got the Lady Hornets back into it. They rallied to take a 17-16 lead. It was 21-21 when, with Lindberg serving, Phillips pounded a kill off a set from Lindberg.
The game was tied at 24 and 25 before Lake Hamilton managed to clinch it with the last two points.
“We had four serves into the net that killed our momentum in the game,” Parish said. “We would work hard to be the ball back and then we would serve another into the net.”
Despite that, the Lady Hornets came out strong in the third game with Clay serving for an opening salvo that built a 5-0 lead. Phillips, who wound up with 11 kills in the match, had three during that stretch.
She added another one off a set from Clay that broke Lake Hamilton’s serve.
But the Lady Wolves returned the favor and put together a 10-0 surge to gain the upper hand.
“Passing and hitting errors all came in bunches and we found ourselves in too big of a hole to dig out of,” Parish said. “We kept fighting but we never could get more than two points at a time.
“I told the girls, if we would have played Conway Blue like we played Lake Hamilton, we would have won that match,” she added.
Along with her 11 kills, Phillips had five tips or blocks. Lindberg had four kills, eight digs and five tips or blocks. Clay contributed three kills while Dillard and Dellis had two each, and Staton one. Dillard added five aces while serving and had four digs. Dellis contributed five digs while Staton led with seven digs to go with a service ace.