When the Bryant Lady Hornets absolutely, positively had to have it, they got it done.
In danger of being knocked out of post-season play with a loss, the Lady Hornets surged to a 3-1 win over the Van Buren Lady Pointers Tuesday night, 25-19, 25-20, 12-25, 25-18.
In the 7A/6A-Central Conference this season only matches against 7A members count toward qualifying for the State tournament in Fayetteville. The Lady Hornets have now split their home-and-home games with Van Buren and Mount St. Mary Academy. Pending Mount’s game at Van Buren on Tuesday, the Lady Hornets kept their hopes alive for a trip to State. Conway, the fourth 7A team in the league, is unbeaten against the 7A members of the league. The Lady Hornets host the Lady Wampus Cats on Oct. 16. They travel to conference-leading Russellville, a 6A school, on Thursday.
“It gives us a good shot,” said Bryant coach Lawrence Jefferson. “It puts us one game ahead of Van Buren as far as the 7A conference goes. They’ve got a big match-up Tuesday and we’ll be waiting to see how that goes.
“It was a big win,” he acknowledged. “We played good the first two games. The third game we didn’t play very well. Van Buren is a well-coached team. They played their game in the third game and took it to us. I was proud of our girls the way they answered in the fourth, instead of letting it go to five.”
The fact that Bryant won in four sets may be big if it comes down to tiebreaking procedures. It took five sets for the Lady Pointers to beat the Lady Hornets at Van Buren on Sept. 11.
“Our girls answered tonight,” Jefferson asserted. “We got some good passing. We had a lot of touches on blocks. Our blocking is getting better every game. That helps the passing game a lot.
“Whitney Brown did a real good job on passing, Abby Staton did a good job on passing and Madison Greeno did a good job on passing and Nikki Clay,” he noted. “Britney (Sahlmann) always does a phenomenal job setting. Our serve game was good. We only had four service errors. That’s one per game. That’s not bad.”
Allie Anderson led with 11 kills. Mercedes Dillard had five, Nikki Clay five with Sahlmann and Kendall Selig adding three each. Nine difference Bryant players had kills. Sahlmann had two blocks and Alex Dillard had one.
Defensively, nine Lady Hornets had digs, led by Brown with 12, Clay with 15, Sahlmann with 12 and Staton with 11. Greeno and Anderson had eight each.
Clay led the team at the service line getting in all 26 of her serves with three aces. Sahlmann was without error on her 15 serves and had an ace. Brown was 16 for 16. Anderson contributed a pair of aces and Staton had one.
Brown was at the line when the Lady Hornets made their move in the fourth set. They trailed 5-7 when Anderson pounded a kill to break serve. Brown rotated to the line and Clay, Anderson and Sahlmann racked up consecutive kills. And when the Lady Hornets scored off Sahlmann’s block, it was 10-7 and Van Buren needed a timeout.
When play resumed, three consecutive hitting errors by Van Buren upped the margin. Down 7-13, the Lady Pointers broke serve but didn’t keep it long. A kill by Selig started a run that had Bryant up 18-10.
Van Buren rallied to within 14-19 but a kill by Rylee Phillips and an ace by Staton sparked the Lady Hornets’ match-winning surge, which concluded with another kill by Selig and Sahlmann’s ace.
In the opening game, it was tied 3-3 when Bryant put together a game-breaking run. Clay’s ace fueled the run. Dillard contributed a kill and, combined with hitting errors from Van Buren, it was soon 10-3.
The Lady Pointers were unable to cut the lead to less than five until late in the set on kills by Chloe Baumann and Addy Hall. At 16-20, Anderson ripped a pair of kills. Back-to-back dinks from Van Buren’s Tori Stafford and a hitting error by the Lady Hornets had the lead down to three but Selig came through with a clutch kill and a pair of kills by Anderson closed it out.
In the second set, it was tied 6-6. Bryant gained the lead for good on a service error, a kill by Alex Dillard and an ace by Clay. A net violation added to the run then Mercedes Dillard’s kill made it 11-6.
Van Buren battled back to within 15-17 but a series of hitting errors and another ace from Clay put Bryant back in control.
In the third set, the Lady Hornets appeared to lose a little focus, got down early and never really recovered. Spurred by kills from Bauman, Stafford and Hattie Morrison, the Lady Pointers built a 7-2 lead. Abbigail Davis contributed three aces during a stretch when Van Buren pulled away from 7-5 to 19-6.