Photos by Rick Nation
The Russellville Lady Cyclones brought the hammer to Bryant on Tuesday night and her name is Hunter Eshnaur. An Arkansas Tech commitment, the 5-10 Eshnaur led a potent front line that spurred the Lady Cyclones to a sweep of the Lady Hornets Tuesday night, 25-22, 25-11, 26-16.
The victory improved Russellville to 4-0 in the 7A/6A-Central Conference, 10-3 overall. Bryant fell to 4-5 and 1-3 going into a trip to Alma this Thursday for another league match-up. Saturday, the Lady Hornets travel to a tournament in Russellville.
Eshnaur, unofficially, had 19 kills and two blocks to lead her team. Those kills included some powerful spikes as well as some dinks, just over the Bryant blockers and in front of the back row.
“Their hitters are so good, you’ve got to play back and they’re good enough to take it and go from what looks like a kill to just a push over the net,” acknowledged Bryant coach Lawrence Jefferson. “That worked for them all night. When we did push up on it, they hit it hard and we couldn’t dig it up.”
As it was, Bryant’s Whitney Brown had 14 digs. Britney Sahlmann and Kendall Selig had eight each.
“The first game we hung with them,” Jefferson noted. “I was proud of that. We built on the positive when we picked up their hits. We had good serve-receive tonight. Just give the Cyclones kudos. They did good.”
The coach went on to say that the Lady Cyclones are probably the best team his squad has faced this season.
“They’re right up there with Texas High that we played in Spikefest,” he related. “I think (Russellville is) a little better. They hit well, they cover well, they pass well, they serve well. I don’t thing they did anything bad tonight. They have a really good team.”
In building a 10-2 lead in the first set, eight of Russellville’s points came on kills or blocks. Only errors allowed the Lady Hornets to score until, down 8-16, Allie Anderson served up an ace. After Eshnaur countered with a kill, Bryant got its first kill on an attack by Nikki Clay. With Selig serving and contributing another kill, Bryant trimmed the lead to 12-17, as close as it had been since the opening blitz.
A dink by Sahlmann broke the Russellville service later in the match. Anderson and Selig combined on a block. Lady Cyclone errors and a kill by Anderson pulled the Lady Hornets within 22-24 before Eshnaur blasted away for the game-winner.
Anderson led Bryant with seven kills in the match. Selig had three and Sahlmann two. Sahlmann finished with 12 assists and was 11 of 12 on the service line with an ace. Clay was good on all nine of her serves. Along with Sahlmann, Anderson and Selig, Brown had an ace. She was good on all six of her serves.
But the Lady Hornets trailed the entire way during the first two sets. They pulled ahead briefly in game three.
Russellville pushed out to a 6-1 lead in the second game behind Eshnaur and the serving of Addyson Hipps who capped the run with consecutive aces. The Lady Hornets battled back and when Anderson wrapped a pair of kills around a kill by Hipps then Brown served her ace, it was just 9-11.
But Russellville surged from there, sparked by a kill by Shameka Ealy and an ace from Brittany Smith. A 14-2 run closed out the game.
The Lady Cyclones broke out 4-1 in the third set but, on a quick kill by Selig, two by Anderson and a Russellville error, Bryant pushed to a 6-5 advantage. Ealy tied it then Eshnaur put the Lady Cyclones back in front. A service error allowed Bryant to draw even again at 7 but Russellville scored the next four points on kills by Bailey Wilbers, Eshnaur and Ashtin Sitkowski.
The Lady Hornets were unable to draw even again as the Lady Cyclones put together another strong finish.