Coming off one of their most disheartening losses of the season on Tuesday, the Bryant Lady Hornets re-emerged as a contender for the 7A/6A-Central Conference championship by knocking off the first-place Greenwood Lady Bulldogs in a back-and-forth match that was decided in the fifth set. Bryant prevailed 25-19, 21-25, 25-21, 15-25, 15-12.
Greenwood won the junior varsity match, 25-15, 25-20.
Bryant is now a game behind Greenwood and Conway for a share of the league lead. The win also vaulted the Lady Hornets into the Class 7A portion of their conference season. The win over Greenwood, a Class 6A power, has no bearing on Bryant’s bid to reach the 7A State Tournament. But the final three matches of the regular season will as the Lady Hornets host Mount St. Mary Academy on Tuesday, Oct. 13, then travel to Van Buren on Thursday before finishing with a showdown at home with Conway on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
This Saturday, the Lady Hornets head to Conway for the Lady Cat Invitational Tournament. They’ll begin with pool play against Lake Hamilton and Paragould in hopes of reaching the Gold Divison of bracket play.
Bryant came into Thursday’s match off a straight set loss at Russellville.
“Yesterday, we really focused on a lot of teamwork, team bonding, getting our team back together after our loss in Russellville,” said Bryant coach Beth Solomon. “Gosh, the girls came out and played tonight, even the JV. And it sucks that we came out with a loss in JV because they definitely played well, much better than we’ve been playing. The team cohesion, team unity was there and we hadn’t seen that in several games in JV.
“Varsity came out and, gosh, we were fired up ready to play,” she continued. “I think the score was 9-1 at one point, which was good because once we got on up there and it was like 23-11, we let them come back to 23-19. But we pulled it off.
“We lost the second one, came back out fired up and won the third one,” the coach added. “It just kind of went back and forth. In the fourth one, we didn’t really get things going but then came out fired up and took care of the fifth one.
“What an amazing game, going five with them and getting the win — really excited about our win. We definitely needed that. It gets our conference a little more shaken up. We’ll see how things shake out.”
Britney Sahlmann, the Lady Hornets’ setter filled up the stat sheet as she often does. To go with her 40 assists, she led the team with four aces, getting in 26 of her 27 serves. She also had 15 digs and three kills.
Allie Anderson finished with 29 kills, three aces at the service line, four digs and a pair of solo blocks. Raven Loveless came through with 10 kills and three digs. Brittney Warner provided seven kills, Kendall Selig five and Alex Dillard two. Selig, Dillard and Warner also had solo blocks.
Shayla McKissock added a save to go with six digs. Whitney Brown, the team’s libero, turned in 29 digs. And she served for an ace, missing on just one of her 15 serves. Kaci Squires had 11 digs and was good on 12 of 13 serves.
“Raven Loveless has really started stepping up and playing,” said Solomon. “She’s always played hard but she’s really started — especially tonight — she’s found her niche. She’s slamming the ball, hitting harder than she has all season.
“The girls looked good,” she continued. “Kaci Squires was back on tonight. Britney, our setter, of course when she’s spot-on then we’re all spot-on.
“We did have some serve-receive issues and that kind of stuff, giving up too many points but that’s stuff we’ll definitely use Saturday to get better at.
“We’re ready for our 7A play next week,” the coach concluded. “We told the girls, if they play the way they did tonight against Mount, it’ll be a great game, no doubt about it. The girls are excited.”