Photos by Rick Nation
On Saturday at the Cyclone Invitational Tournament in Russellville, the Bryant Lady Hornets eased past 7A/6A-Central Conference rival Van Buren in two quick sets during pool play on their way to the runner-up finish. It was the start of a seven-match, 16-set day.
On Tuesday, the Pointerettes visited Bryant for their first match in conference play. When it was over, Bryant head coach Beth Solomon observed that her team hadn’t played up to its usual standards, particularly in the first two games of the match, but you might have a hard time convincing the Pointerettes as the Lady Hornets won in straight sets, 25-18, 25-16, 25-10.
“We didn’t fired up until that third game, compared to how we’ve been playing,” Solomon said. “It was still okay.”
And it didn’t take the head coach long to look ahead to the next match, a battle for first place in the conference with rival Conway, which defeated Bryant in the finals at Russellville Saturday.
“I’ve been here 11 years and we’ve never beaten Conway,” Solomon noted. “We’re hoping we can change that.
“We’ve got a lot to do (on Wednesday) to get ready,” she asserted. “It’ll be a lot different playing Conway. Seeing them Saturday was nice. Granted, we had just played six sets in a row so we were not anywhere close to being fresh.
“Hopefully, Thursday night, we’ll have a completely different outcome than we had Saturday being fresh, playing on fresh legs. We can go back and look at film and see what they do and adjust from there. And the girls are excited.”
On Tuesday, the Lady Hornets, now 15-3 overall, 5-1 in league play and 2-0 against 7A conference teams, just had Van Buren overmatched.
“We knew that going in, which may be why we kind of didn’t play until that last game,” she acknowledged. “That third game I guess the girls just decided they were ready to get out of here.
“Stat-wise, we had a really good night but it felt like we just couldn’t get it going those first two games. I just felt like we knew we kind of had it but they’ve got to learn not to play like that.”
Allie Anderson finished with 21 kills and just two attack errors. Raven Loveless added four kills. Kendall Selig and Brittney Warner added three each and Britney Sahlmann two. Whitney Brown and Alex Dillard had one apiece. Dillard had the team’s lone solo block.
Sahlmann finished with 28 assists and was good on all 20 of her serves with a pair of aces. Whitney Brown led with three aces. Ashlyn Lee, Kaci Squires and Savannah Shelton had two each.
Brown also led with 12 digs. Squires had seven.
“We did some good stuff tonight,” Solomon said. “Ashlyn was still in. We’re going to try to work her in for Thursday. She’s become quite a good little server and good player to have in there as far as passing goes. Shayla (McKissock) is back so we should be able to work her back in. We’re starting to look more at Allie on back row, trying to leave her in to get that back row attack in,” she noted. “Our serves looked good tonight. We just missed a few (8 of 75), which we’ve been working hard at. When our serves are on, we seem to play a whole lot better. Those are free points we’re not giving away.”
The Pointerettes last lead in Tuesday’s match was 2-1 in the opening set. They pulled even at 9 but, the rest of the match, Bryant held the upper hand.
Brown served the Lady Hornets into the lead after the tie. Still, it was just 19-15 later in the game. A kill by Loveless started Bryant’s closing surge. Lee served for one her aces and errors by Van Buren helped push the lead to 22-15 before a side-out on a service error.
But the Pointerettes couldn’t hold serve. In the end, Selig scored on a dink then Anderson hammered home a pair of kills to close it out.
In the second set, Anderson had two kills to spark a 3-0 start. The Lady Hornets led 7-2 before Van Buren pushed back to 7-5. A service error, however, cost them a chance to get closer.
Dillard and Sahlmann combined on a block for a point then Dillard drilled a kill to make it 10-5. Loveless got another kill to make it 11-7 then Squires served up her two aces in quick succession on either side of a kill off a dink by Selig as the lead ballooned to 15-7.
Van Buren cut it to 15-10 before Selig forced a side-out and Brown served for an ace.
Anderson then accounted for four of the last six points for the Lady Hornets with her kills. Sahlmann and Shelton had aces to account for the other two points.
The Pointerettes just had no answer for Anderson in the third set. Working impressively with Sahlmann’s sets, she had 11 kills in the set. Sahlmann added an ace along the way as well as a pair of kills.
Warner had a kill and Dillard got a block for a point during a run that produced an 11-2 lead.