Photos by Kevin Nagle
BENTON — On Thursday night, the Bryant Lady Hornets did the unthinkable — they defeated the[more] Benton Lady Panthers for the first time, maybe ever.
"This was huge," Solomon said. "Besides winning one game in a jamboree against them, this is the first time since I've been here, that we've beaten Benton."
Bryant came out on fire with eight first-game kills from Brooke Howell to win 25-16. Benton took the second game 25-19, but Bryant battled for a momentum swinging third game 27-25, then closed out the night with a 25-21 victory.
The win gave the Lady Hornets sole possession of first place in the 7A/6A-South Conference. They’re now 13-4-2 overall and 6-0 in the league going into a home match against Lake Hamilton on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
"All the girls played so well," Solomon said. "They fought their butts off. I've never seen hitting that hard from my girls in my life."
The Lady Hornets, who had 51 kills as a team, took advantage of Benton mistakes and mishits that set up Alyssa Anderson who opened the first game with a kill and a block for points. Howell, who finished with a team-high 12 kills, got her first two kills of the game and made Benton misplay her shot for another point.
After an Anderson kill — she would finish with nine — Howell had an ace serve and McKenzie Rice killed the ball. Howell came back for another kill and a 10-7 lead.
Kills from McKenzie Rice (nine in the game) and Courtney Davidson, and an ace by Anderson gave Bryant a six point lead. An Aubree Allen kill and ace serve was followed by a Howell tip for a point and a Howell kill.
Benton rallied back to get within five points, 21-16, but Howell got a kill, Davidson served an ace, Howell got another kill and Anderson ended the game with a tip over the defense.
Two kills from Howell started the second game, as Benton continued to make hitting errors and unforced net violations, but managed to get two kills to take a 7-6 lead. Abby Staton served an ace and Howell got a tip and a hit, but the Lady Panthers rallied back to take a two-point lead.
Anderson had a tip at the net and kept Bryant close by hitting the ball softly enough to make Benton miss.
Benton got a block for a point then Howell put down a kill shot that hit a Lady Panther in the head. The Benton defender hit the floor and 20 minutes later, paramedics carried her away.
"It was just for precaution," Benton coach Brandy Chumley said. "She's going to be okay."
There was also concern for the Lady Hornets. Howell was visibly upset by the play and Solomon calmed her down.
"We hope that she is going to be okay," Solomon said of the Benton player. "We finally got Brooke to settle down a little bit. I think she was more upset than the girl that was hit. But all of our girls fought through it and played great."
Benton went on to take a 25-19 win in the second game, but the turning point of the match came in third game.
With the score tied 16-16, Davidson got a kill and Howell's kill tied the game at 20-20. After out calls on both teams, Anderson made a kill off a set from Hannah Rice, then Benton was called for a double hit and an out call to put Bryant up 25-24. After a controversial carry call on Bryant, McKenzie Rice got a kill and a block, then Hannah Rice served up a jumping ace to end the game 27-25.
"Hannah had some pressure on her and she came through great," Solomon said of her setter who produced 40 assists.
McKenzie Rice kept Bryant close in the fourth game with two kills, then Hannah Rice served another ace and Howell got a kill to tie the game at 5-5. The game remained within a point and tied until the Lady Hornets separated themselves with a McKenzie Rice kill followed by an Anderson kill.
Benton was called for a net violation, hit the ball into the net and missed a tip out of bounds and Bryant went up 20-16.
After the Lady Panthers got to within two points, Howell got three kills in a row and Davidson had a block for a point to end the game and the match.
"Both of us came into tonight's game undefeated and we probably moved up in the standings for the 7A to second place, depending on what happens in the Bentonville game," Solomon said. "This was a fantastic game. I was proud of the girls, they all played great."
Benton won the junior varsity match 25-13, 25-11. The Bryant JV dropped to 6-4 on the season.
Erica Smith and Allen each had four kills, Emily Henson three. Mercedes Dillard finished with 11 assists. Bryant was 22 of 25 as a team serving. Smith had seven good serves in as many attempts. Nikki Clay contributed nine digs.