Photo courtesy of Rick Nation
LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Lady Hornets pleased their coach Saturday. In fact, BHS head volleyball coach[more] Beth Solomon said, “I am coming off of today absolutely ecstatic."
Admittedly, her team went 2-2 at the annual Little Rock Spikefest but, after going 2-1 in pool play, they made it to the Gold bracket tournament portion of the event, among the top eight teams of the field of 32.
In the first round of the bracket, they ran into Bentonville, the defending Class 7A State Tournament champion.
“We were in this same situation last year at the Spikefest,” Solomon recounted. “We’re very familiar with playing Bentonville and experiencing how good they are.
“We did lose in two but we made them work for every point they got. The first game was 21-25 and the second was 18-25. The girls refused to quit playing and, I think, surprised themselves at what they were capable of doing.”
The day started at 9 a.m., when the Lady Hornets took on the rival Conway Lady Wampus Cats, the team they finished second to in the final 7A/6A-Central Conference standings last season. Conway prevailed on Saturday, 25-16, 25-19. Bryant bounced back to dismiss Magnolia, 25-5, 25-13 then Camden Fairview, 25-14, 25-12, to set up the match with Bentonville.
Bryant travels to Conway on Tuesday and, though Conway’s still in the Central and Bryant’s now in the South conference, the game will count as a league contest for the Lady Hornets. The game was designated to replace what would’ve been a South game against Pine Bluff if Pine Bluff played volleyball. So it’s an important outing for Bryant.
In reflecting on her team’s play against Bentonville, Solomon looked ahead.
“That's the level of play we have to have on Tuesday night when we play in Conway,” she asserted. “If the girls play Tuesday night like they played against Bentonville we will see the results we need to see.”
In the match against Bentonville, the Lady Hornets were led by McKenzie Rice and Brooke Howell. Rice had seven kills and when 7 of 7 serving with two aces. Howell had six kills and 9 of 9 good serves with an ace. Hannah Rice contributed 10 assists to go with six good serves in eight attempts with five of them aces. She also had 10 digs.
In the win over Magnolia, seven different Lady Hornets had kills, paced by McKenzie Rice’s five and Howell’s four. Alyssa Anderson had three. As a team, the Lady Hornets were good on 93 percent of their serves and Howell was 13 for 13 with six saves. McKenzie Rice was 10 of 13 with four aces and Anderson was good on all five or her serves with two aces. Hannah Rice was 33 of 37 on her sets with 13 assists.
McKenzie Rice had nine kills, Anderson five in the win over Camden Fairview. Howell and Courtney Davidson added three each. Hannah Rice was good on 32 of 33 sets with 16 assists. Rochelle Aguilar came up with four digs. Howell was good on all 12 of her serves with an ace. Anderson and Hannah Rice each had two aces.
McKenzie Rice finished with six kills against Conway. Howell had four and Hannah Rice three to go with 10 assists. She was 51 of 52 on her sets and contributed 11 digs. Anderson was 8 for 8 serving with an ace. Howell was good on all six of her opportunities and knocked down two aces.
“The girls were not awake and didn't play anywhere near their level of play during that game,” Solomon said of the Conway set. “We did have some shining moments, but they were at the end of the game, when it was too late to start trying to make a run.
“The girls redeemed themselves with a big win over Magnolia and another win over Camden Fairview to finish second in our pool,” she noted. “I was proud that the girls didn't play down to those schools.”