Lady Hornets freshmen clinch first South Division championship
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
The Bryant Lady Hornets freshman volleyball team clinched its first regular-season championship of the South Division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference with a 2-1 win over Conway Blue on Thursday, Oct. 9.
Bryant won 25-14, 24-26, 25-23 to improve to 11-2 in the league with one game left to play on Monday, Oct. 12 against Cabot South. Even with a loss in that final regular-season game, the Lady Hornets will be the top seed from the South at the CAJHC post-season tournament, which will be held in Bryant starting Wednesday, Oct. 14. As the top seed, the Lady Hornets will receive a first-round bye in the tournament.
Mount St. Mary’s could still tie for the division championship but because Bryant swept the Mounties, the top seed to the tourney would go to the Lady Hornets.
The team includes, McKenzie Adams, Alyssa Anderson, Taylor Cromwell, Courtney Davidson, Logan Davis, Kaitlyn Gaiser, Britten Hays, Brooke Howell, Sarah McPherson, Jordan Nichols, Tyler Diane Platt, Hannah Rice, McKenzie Rice, and Kaylon Wilson.[more]
The freshman and eighth grade volleyball programs were instituted at Bryant only a few years ago. And, more recently, a seventh grade program was started.
It has had its effect.
Last year, Bryant’s freshman team finished second in the South Division.
“Each year, we’ve just gotten a little better and a little better,” noted head coach Monica Parish, who has led the program since its inception. Early on, she also coached the eighth grade. Now, DeAnna Ward coaches the Bryant White eighth grade and Melissa Bragg coaches the Bryant Blue eighth grade, as well as the seventh grade teams.
“It’s grown each year and I attribute a lot of our success to how well DeAnna and Melissa are doing with them,” Parish added. “At the start, I had eighth grade by myself and they’d never played before. Now I have just ninth graders and not only have they played before but they know positions. I can get started without having to teach them the basics of the game. It’s really made a difference.”
It has shown at the high school level too, particularly this season when the Lady Hornets are building toward a higher seed from the 7A-Central Conference to the State tourney, winning four of their last five league games.
Parish credited too, the athleticism of the team. But it’s more than that, she acknowledged.
“It’s apparent when those girls talk, they’re really good,” she noted. “They really pull together. But when they don’t talk — and what they do, it’s not that they really relax, they just want to do so well that they just start thinking about it instead of playing and they shut their mouths. That’s that second game. So, it’s really apparent when they talk and when they don’t. Communication is just key in volleyball.”
It’s a versatile and unselfish team, Parish noted.
“We can have a bad first pass but there’s so many that will set for another. We don’t have just one setter,” she explained. “Even though somebody may be a hitter, they can make a good enough set where we can still get a good hit on the ball. And we don’t have 15 kills by one player and two by another. That helps us have consistency on the front row.”
Winning against Conway Blue had to be satisfying since one of Bryant’s two league losses came to the Lady Kittens back on Sept. 14.
“Our second game, we just weren’t there at all,” Parish said. “I don’t know what happens to us in our second games. We just couldn’t keep our serve. We’d serve it and they’d side-out. We weren’t really attacking.”
In the first game, Hannah Rice put together runs in service to take the Lady Hornets from points 2 through 7 then 20 through 24. In the second game, she served as Bryant made a late surge from points 21 through 24 only to have Conway Blue eke out the win to force the rubber game of the match.
McKenzie Rice served during the team’s breakout stretch from points 8 to 12 then McKenzie Adams pushed it from 19 to 22 to put the Lady Hornets in position to win.
Courtney Davidson led the Lady Hornes with five kills. McKenzie Rice had three, McKenzie Adams and Hannah Rice two each.
Adams came up with a whopping eight blocks to frustrate the Lady Kittens’ front line.
“It really made the Conway girls change the way they were hitting,” Parish related. “That really helped in the third game.
“Courtney also had a really good night at the net,” she added. “She only had two blocks but she had a lot of tips and a lot of aggressive net play that helped us win the third game because, in that game, the Conway girls were killing it and either hitting it into the net or they were hitting it way out of bounds because they were trying to get it over the block. It forced them to alter their hits.”