Lady Hornets sweep Russellville to set up first-place showdown with Conway
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).
By Rob Patrick
RUSSELLVILLE — It’s a good time for the Bryant Lady Hornets volleyball team to be[more] on a roll.
And that, they are.
Tuesday night, on the heels of a 3-0 sweep of Cabot last Thursday, they swept past the Russellville Lady Cyclones. Spurred by a stirring comeback in the first game, Bryant prevailed 26-24, 25-21, 25-23. Both wins came in 7A/6A-Central Conference play, after they had dropped their first league outing at Mount St. Mary Academy.
Now 4-2 overall, Bryant is set to host perennial conference and State power Conway this Thursday. With a win over Van Buren Tuesday night, the Lady Wampus Cats improved to 8-1 overall and 4-0 in league play so a share of the conference lead will be on the line.
“It’s not going to be an easy game,” commented Lady Hornets head coach Beth Solomon. “It’s going to probably be the hardest one we’ve played yet.
“I think they’ll rise to the challenge,” she said of her team. “They like to play against teams that are good so we feel like Thursday night will be a good game.”
At Russellville, the Bryant junior varsity also prevailed, 25-20, 25-18. In a sophomore match, Russellville got the better of it, 25-15, 25-17.
The Lady Hornets varsity struggled early. They fell behind 6-1 right off the bat and eventually trailed 18-8 before a kill by Alyssa Anderson started a comeback. A series of attack errors by the Lady Cyclones contributed to the Bryant surge during a four-point service run by Hannah Rice. A kill by Brooke Howell then a point off a block by Brianna White whittled the lead to 19-15.
Russellville broke serve but couldn’t retain control as Howell drilled another hit followed by a kill from Peyton Thacker.
The Lady Hornets appeared to have another point on a hitting error by the Lady Cyclones but a net violation cost them the point and service. But a kill by McKenzie Rice broke Russellville’s serve right away and, with Lauren Reed serving, the Lady Hornets pulled even at 21-21.
It was 22-22 when Taylor West began a turn as server. Bryant took a lead on Russellville errors, 24-22 only to have the Lady Cyclones rally to tie it at 24. But a kill by Anderson broke serve then McKenzie Rice drilled an ace for the game-winner.
“The girls like to make it exciting and I don’t know why they do that,” Solomon quipped. “I mean I want it to be an exciting game but, like I told them, it’s still exciting if we win by 10. You don’t have to spot them six, seven, eight points.
“We basically pulled it all together,” she explained. “We reminded them to play like they played Thursday night.
“We’re still working on the whole confidence thing and the consistency thing,” mentioned the coach. “They’re still a young team. There’s some seniors out there but a lot of them are still young and still getting used to it, the whole consistency thing and believing they can win in three. So, hopefully, with two under us now, we’ll start playing that way.”
The second game of the match was tight most of the way. Russellville led 10-8 before Bryant went on a 10-2 run that featured a pair of aces by McKenzie Rice and another by Anderson. Howell had two kills, Anderson had one and when White scored off a block, Russellville called timeout trailing 12-18.
The timeout helped as the Lady Cyclones cobbled together a 6-1 run. With their lead down to 19-18, the Lady Hornets called timeout. It helped them too.
A service error cost Russellville then McKenzie Rice, off a splendid set by her twin sister Hannah, spiked one to make it 21-18.
The Lady Cyclones whittled the lead to 21-22 but McKenzie Rice’s kill set up the closing salvo for the Lady Hornets. Another attack error cost Russellville and McKenzie Rice put the game away in the same fashion she had finished the first game, with an ace.
In game three, Russellville pushed out to a 5-1 lead before the Lady Hornets got it going. With Hannah Rice serving, Bryant reeled off a 7-0 run to gain control. The rally was highlighted by two service aces, a dink by Courtney Davidson and a kill by Howell.
The Lady Hornets maintained a lead until, trailing 14-20, Russellville made a bid to extend the match beyond game three. The Lady Cyclones actually pulled ahead 23-22 but a kill by Anderson, an ace by West and a match-point kill by Hannah Rice brought things to a conclusion.
McKenzie Rice finished with a team-high 10 kills. Anderson added nine and Howell seven. White had four solo blocks. Hannah Rice set for 22 assists and led the team with 11 digs.
The Lady Hornets were good on 98 percent of their passes and 90 percent on their serves with a whopping 12 aces including four by McKenzie Rice and three each by Anderson and Hannah Rice.
In the JV match, Davidson led with six kills. Aubree Allen added five and Erica Smith and Kaylon Wilson three each. Allen also had two solo blocks.Carley Choate had 17 assists and her younger sister Caylin led with eight digs. Brittan Hays had 10 good serves. Caylin Choate was 9 of 11 with two aces.
Allen had five kills in the sophomore match. Smith added three to go with two blocks. Caylin Choate had six assists and five digs. Becka Shaddon contributed seven digs and Kaley Coppock five.