North Little Rock fends off Lady Hornets’ upset bid

For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here

Erin Thompson returns the ball. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

The Bryant Lady Hornets volleyball team appeared to be on the cusp of breaking through on Tuesday night in their 6A-Central Conference match with the North Little Rock Lady Charging Wildcats at the Hornets’ Nest.

They play well for a while then an error here or a bad break there — something knocks them off stride — and it’s a struggle to get back to that place.

They continue to battle but they need a breakthrough moment, a victory, to boost their confidence and reward their hard work.

But the frustrations continued Tuesday night as they fell 11-25, 25-18, 15-25, 19-25 to the athletic Lady Cats.

“It’s still the little things,” said Lady Hornets coach Leigh Ann Back. “There was a lot of fight tonight, but I think we’re struggling with, do we believe that we can actually do it? I keep saying this, but I feel more comfortable with the direction we’re heading now.

“We made some massive changes,” she noted. “I have a new setter on the floor. I changed my libero, started with a different right-side hitter. And I think we’re on the right track. I’m not for sure if this is exactly it yet but I think we’re on the right track. 

“It was players that were out-playing others and players that were doing the little things differently, hoping that would work,” she explained.

Ella Reynolds had seven kills and two solo blocks. Truli Bates had six kills and Sammie Jo Ferguson five for the Lady Hornets.

Jaiyah Jackson and Ella Reynolds go for a dig. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Jaiyah Jackson, the new libero, came up with 24 kids. Alyssa Hernandez had 17 and Reynolds 13. Shaylee Carver contributed 13 assists off the bench with Hernandez adding 10.

The Lady Hornets were good on just over 88 percent of their serves with nine aces including three each by Reynolds and Bates.

Bryant never led in the first set but back-to-back kills by Reynolds had the Lady Hornets within 6-8. North Little Rock, spurred by strong outside hitting by Jada Lawson, surged but Bryant hung around. A kill by Bates had them within 9-12. But a passing error resulted in a sideout and North Little Rock pushed out to a 20-9 lead.

In the second set, the Lady Hornets fell behind initially, but Bates had a block to break serve then a kill. Reynolds’ kill had Bryant in the lead 4-3.

Truli Bates (22) attacks. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

This time, the Lady Hornets maintained the edge. It was 9-7 when Reynolds rotated into service and got on a roll with her aces, along with a kill by Ferguson. The lead grew to 16-7. Later, Madelyn Hoskins had a kill and Hernandez served up an ace to make it 20-10.

The Lady Cats rallied to 22-18. But a kill by Bates and an ace to follow up helped the Lady Hornets close out the win.

But the momentum from that set did not carry forward. North Little Rock pushed out to an 8-1 lead in the early stages of the third game. A block by Hoskins helped Bryant rally. Aided by an ace from Jackson, the Lady Hornets eventually drew even 13-13. They took the lead on a block by Bates. North Little Rock’s Aleya Kennedy answered with a dink but when Bates got another kill, it was 15-15.

But the Lady Hornets didn’t score another point in the set. With Makenzie Cresswell serving, the Lady Cats finished with a 10-0 run.

Madelyn Hoskins tips the ball over the net and the block attempt by North Little Rock’s Anyla Watson. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Bryant started the fourth set well. Hoskins had a kill and Hernandez drilled an ace but consecutive kills by North Little Rock’s Abby Bannerman turned the tide and the Lady Hornets never led again. They got back to 5-6 on errors by the Lady Cats before the game gradually got away from Bryant. A flurry at the end, sparked by a kill from Cassidy Land and fueled by another ace from Bates and a kill by Ferguson cut the margin to 18-23 but that was as close as the Lady Hornets could get.

Bryant hits the road to take on league-leading Conway on Thursday.

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