Photos by Kevin Nagle
After scrimmaging against themselves at the annual Lady Hornets volleyball showcase at the Bryant Middle School gym on Tuesday, the 2016 edition of the Bryant High School volleyball team will get an opportunity to compete against other teams tonight at a preseason benefit jamboree at Benton.
At 5:30 p.m., the Lady Hornets will scrimmage Pulaski Academy at the Benton Junior High gym then, at 6, Mount St. Mary Academy. After a break, they’ll return at 7:30 to take on Little Rock Christian followed at 8 by a game against Fountain Lake as they move to the high school arena. Bryant and Benton will play at 9 to cap off the evening.
The season-opener for the BHS team will be at home on Tuesday, Aug. 23, against Hot Springs Lakeside.
The Lady Hornets are coming off a season in which they went 28-8-1 overall and reached the second round of the 7A-State Tournament before losing to eventual champion Fayetteville. It was a senior-laden team that included four players who signed to continue their careers in college, a program high mark.
So there wasn’t a lot of room for varsity playing time for the underclassmen last year. The only starter returning is junior outside hitter Raven Loveless. The others with the most playing time were on the front line as well including Alex Dillard, Riley Hill and Brittney Warner.
Dillard and Hill are two of the five seniors on this year’s team, along with Reagan Blend, Sarah Clemmons and Sarah Kennedy. Unfortunately, Kennedy is out indefinitely with an injured shoulder.
Sophomores on the team include Kristin Boyle, Emily Hall, Cassie Ray, Shannon Stewart, Lindsey Maxwell, Madi Draper, Beatriz Hernandez, Aly Bowers, Imanii Jones and Faith Stone. In addition, 5-10 Lylah Washington is the first freshman to move up to the varsity program.
“We’ll be interested to see how things go,” said Lady Hornets coach Beth Solomon, regarding the jamboree. “It’ll be a building and growing year for us. We’ll still be doing good things. It’s just that we’re young for the most part.”
For the jamboree, the coach said, Loveless will start at one outside hitter with Dillard on the other side. Warner has moved into the middle hitter spot. Hill, who played mostly on the front line last year, has been moved to libero.
“She’s one of our most consistent passers,” Solomon said. “We’ll see how it goes.
“Sarah Clemmons is going to be our other middle,” she continued. “She transferred from (Little Rock) Central two years ago. She didn’t play much last year with different injuries.”
“I’m really excited about her,” the coach said. “Well, obviously, I’m excited about all of them but she’s the first freshman I’ve ever moved up (at the start of a season). And not only moving up but starting varsity is pretty impressive. It’ll be exciting to watch and see what kind of great things she does this year.”
Lee has stepped into the setter role.
“We’re kind of playing with our other back row players right now as far as who’s going to be in our starting lineup,” Solomon said. “It may change every game. We’ve got to work out some inconsistencies. Right now, it’ll be Reagan Dabbs, Reagan Blend and Kyla Baker.”
Blend won’t be available for the jamboree, however, due to injury. Solomon said she hopes she’ll be back in time for the season opener.
“I’ve got some other sophomores that I may plug in (tonight) on the back row,” the coach said.
“I’m excited out the jamboree,” she added. “I’m excited to see what we’re going to do, what we look like coming out of the gate.”