RUSSELLVILLE — The Bryant Lady Hornets volleyball team worked its way all the way to the finals of[more] the Cyclone Invitational tournament on Saturday before running into a tough rival that had beaten them in regular-season play earlier this year. And, though it took all three sets, the Mount St. Mary Belles did it again.
The Lady Hornets, still without senior outside hitter McKenzie Rice because of a shoulder injury (she played some back row Saturday), finished as the tourney runner-up after a hotly contested 18-25, 25-23, 9-15 battle in the title match.
“We came home with a second place finish, I'm proud of that,” stated Bryant coach Beth Solomon. “I told the girls that we got out of this tournament what we needed. I'm sad that we didn't win that last game, but the girls fought hard that game. We needed this. We needed to see this higher-level play that is more like what our post-season play will look like.”
The Lady Hornets compete against Class 6A teams as part of the South Conference. They’ll be faced with Class 7A teams at the State Tournament.
To get to the championship tilt, Bryant defeated Class 7A Cabot, 25-19, 16-25, 15-8 and host Russellville, 25-20, 14-25, 16-14. That was after competing in pool play against Alma, CAC and Waldron. They split two games against Alma, 17-25, 25-17 then two both games against Central Arkansas Christian, 25-18, 25-12. A 22-25, 25-24 split with Waldron made the Lady Hornets the third seed for bracket play, giving them a first-round bye.
“Aubree Allen stepped up for the team big time this weekend,” Solomon noted. “Since McKenzie's shoulder injury, she's stepped in as our second outside hitter and proved to be one of our best servers on Saturday. We're hoping to get McKenzie back this week. Erica Smith also came in and played for us Saturday and got us some key blocks we needed.”
Against Mount St. Mary, Hannah Rice and Courtney Davidson had 12 good serves apiece. Rice finished with seven aces and Davidson three. Brooke Howell was good on all 11 of her serves. Howell attacked 24 times and finished with five aces. Davidson added six in 22 attacks. Alyssa Anderson’s six kills came out of 18 attacks. Hannah Rice led with 18 assists. Howell finished with 13 digs.
Abby Staton was the top server against Russellville with 14 good serves that resulted in 11 points. She had one ace. Howell was good on 10 of 11 with an ace and Allen got in 8 of 10 with an ace. Davidson contributed two aces. Howell had eight kills, Davidson seven. Hannah Rice not only had 17 assists, she added three solo blocks.
In the win over Cabot, Anderson was the top server with 16 of 17 good serves, accounting for 10 points, four on aces. Davidson was good on all nine of her serves for 8 points including four aces. Hannah Rice was 8 of 9 with three aces. Allen and Staton added seven good serves each with Allen serving up an ace along the way. Allen led with eight kills. Davidson added seven, Hannah Rice five and Anderson four.
Now 11-4-2 in all matches this season, the Lady Hornets put their 4-0 conference mark on the line when they host El Dorado on Tuesday.