FAYETTEVILLE — After the Bryant Lady Hornets battled the Russellville Lady Cyclones in a 7A/6A-Central Conference match on Sept. 16, Coach Lawrence Jefferson was asked if Russellville might have the best team in the state. On the record, he said they might be but off the record, he pointed to the northwest corner of the state to Bentonville, Fayetteville and Fort Smith Southside. Though Russellville had a tall front line, those three had even more size.
As it turned out, when the Lady Hornets reached the Class 7A State Tournament, they not only drew one of those teams, they also got the host team, the Fayetteville Lady Bulldogs.
Not the best draw.
Fayetteville wound up winning but the Lady Hornets did something they were unable to do against Russellville in six sets of their home-and-home matches with the Lady Cyclones: They won a game and they made the Lady Bulldogs sweat it out before falling 19-25, 17-25, 25-22, 17-25.
“This is an awesome group of girls,” said Jefferson, who stepped in on an interim basis when both head coach Beth Solomon and assistant Cristina Myers took leave from their coaching duties to give birth. “They played well and never gave up. Fayetteville is a really good team and we made them earn the win.”
Allie Anderson finished with 21 kills while Britney Sahlmann produced 24 assists. Both are juniors. Whitney Brown came up with 16 digs for the Lady Hornets and Abby Staton contributed 21 service points including three aces. They both are seniors.
Mercedes Dillard added three kills, Sahlmann two with one each from Madison Greeno, Kendall Selig and Alex Dillard. Selling added two aces at the service line and Mercedes Dillard had one. Brown was good on all 13 of her serves, Selig was 11 of 12, Sahlmann 10 of 11 and Nikki Clay 8 of 9.
Clay contributed 12 digs, Sahlmann 11. Staton and Greeno had seven apiece. Mercedes Dillard and Rylee Phillips each had solo blocks.
Bryant concludes the season with a 12-15 record, making a return to the State Tournament for the fifth year in a row.
“We had a good season and improved with each practice,” Jefferson said.