Lady Hornets earn bid to State Tournament
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
CAMDEN — For the first time since 1995, the Bryant Lady Hornets have qualified for the Class AAAAA State Volleyball Tournament which will be held beginning this Friday at Cabot High School.
The Lady Hornets, 7-9 on the season, outlasted Little Rock McClellan three games to two in their best of five match Saturday in the fourth-place game at the AAAAA-South Conference’s postseason tournament at Fairview High School.
Sheridan, the regular-season conference champion, won the tournament title by besting Texarkana in the finals. Texarkana will be the second seed from the South to State with Fairview third.
Bryant’s lone senior Kristina Knight and junior Stephanie Kennedy were named all-conference performers.
The Lady Hornets will open play in the State Tournament at 1 p.m., Friday, against AAAAA-Central champion Conway, one of the favorites for the state crown.
The Lady Hornets, who finished tied with McClellan for fourth during the regular season, drew the fifth slot for the conference tournament because they had lost to McClellan both times during the regular season. That meant they had to play in the preliminary round of the conference tournament on Thursday against Little Rock Parkview, a team the Lady Hornets had beaten twice during the season.
Parkview surprised the Lady Hornets by winning the first game of the match 15-13. It was the first time, the Lady Patriots had even won a game against Bryant this season.
“We were just kind of sluggish,” said Lady Hornets head coach Joan Hunter, “but we came back to beat ‘em 16-14, 15-12 and 15-2. We finally woke up in that last game.”
With that win, the Lady Hornets advanced to Saturday morning’s action against Texarkana, the perennial league powerhouse which had only lost to Sheridan in conference play during the regular season.
“We played real well the first couple of games,” Hunter said. “They beat us 15-7 then 16-14 then 15-3. We kind of just gave out at the end. But I was pleased with the girls’ performance against Texarkana.”
That dropped the Lady Hornets into the fourth-place game against McClellan that afternoon.
Fairview, a team that Bryant had split with during the regular season, had knocked off McClellan earlier in the day to advance.
So with, for them, a tougher draw in the fourth-place game, the Lady Hornets came through with the victory with a bid to State on the line.
The Lady Hornets opened the match with a 15-10 win in the first game. But McClellan eked out a 15-13 win in the second. It then looked like Bryant had regained command of the match in the third game when it overwhelmed the Lady Lions 15-4. But, again, McClellan rallied to take the fourth game 16-14, setting up the rubber game for the match and the State bid.
The Lady Hornets regained their form and buried the Lady Lions 15-3.
“My girls were so tired, they were going, ‘Do we have to play another game?’” Hunter recalled with a laugh. “McClellan was tired too and we were real evenly matched, so there was a lot of bump-set-spike, bump-set-spike on both sides. It took a long time.
“We should’ve beaten them in the other games,” she mentioned. “We’d have them down 10-2 or so and they came back. But we beat ‘em finally.”
Hunter acknowledged that her team drew a tough opening-round opponent, perhaps the best in the state.
“We’re just going to go up there and play and have fun and say we went to the State Tournament and see what happens,” she said.
“The girls worked hard and I think they improved a lot since the beginning of this year even. I even put some new girls, some 10th graders in there that did a good job too. (Playing in State) will be a good experience for us. It looks pretty good for next year.”