CONWAY — After playing 14 sets in six matches on the day, the Bryant Lady Hornets met the rival Conway Lady Wampus Cats in the finals of the Cyclone Invitational volleyball tournament on Saturday and ran out of steam. Though they battled, the Lady Hornets fell 22-25, 19-25 garnering runner-up status.
Bryant swept through pool play, defeating Van Buren 25-14, 25-13 then downing Morrilton, 25-18, 25-9, before knocking off Clarksville, 25-13, 25-12.
In bracket play, the Lady Hornets opened with a win over Alma 25-14, 25-19. They came up against Beebe after switching to second gym in the second round and lost their first set of the day after winning nine in a row. But they prevailed in the match, 25-22, 23-25, 15-12.
In the semifinals, Russellville took them to three sets but Bryant advanced, 25-19, 14-25, 15-13.
“It was a great day for Bryant volleyball,” said Lady Hornets coach Beth Solomon. “I’m real excited about how the day went, finishing second in the tournament.
“I’m very, very proud of the way our girls played,” she emphasized. “We were short two girls. Sarah Kennedy and Shayla McKissock couldn’t make it and I felt like our girls really rallied to pick up and fill in that spot. It’s good to know now that we have even more depth on our bench that we can go to if we get into a bind.
“Also, we looked at some new stuff,” the coach said. “We were able to leave Allie Anderson on the back row to get some big power back-row hits in when we were playing Russellville, then again with Conway. Our serves looked better too.”
Regarding the final match with Conway, Solomon added, “At that point, our girls had played eight sets back-to-back-to-back. So, when we got into that second game (with Conway), we fought as hard as we could but our girls weren’t fresh. We still played very hard.”
She noted that her team got a little warm-up for more important matches against Van Buren and Conway this week, two of the 7A members of the 7A/6A-Central Conference. Matches against fellow 7A teams count both towards a conference championship but also for garnering one of three bids and seeding for the State Tournament, which will be hosted by Conway. Matches against 6A league rivals play no role in qualifying for the 7A State tourney.
“I’m pretty excited that we got to see Van Buren since we play them Tuesday,” Solomon said. “We’ll be able to watch some film and make sure we’re ready to go and really take it to them and defend our home court. Then, for Thursday, we got to see Conway. The outcome will hopefully be completely different on Thursday when we’re fresh and hadn’t been playing just non-stop for 12 hours.”
The Lady Hornets put up some eye-popping stats for the day. Anderson, the senior outside hitter, wound up with whopping 68 kills and sophomore Raven Loveless had 38 on the other side. Kendall Selig finished with 21, Britney Sahlmann 20, Brittney Warner 18 and Alex Dillard 10 to go with a team-high four blocks.
On the service line, Anderson finished with 17 aces. Whitney Brown finished with 9. Sahlmann had eight, Ashlyn Lee six, Kaci Squires three and Selig two.
Sahlmann put up 120 assists and 36 digs. Brown finished with 45 digs, Squires 33, Savannah Shelton 21, Lee 20 and Anderson pitching in with 18.