By Rob Patrick
LITTLE ROCK — Not that it isn’t fun most of the time, but there was a point during their match against the Little Rock Central Lady Tigers that the Bryant Lady Hornets volleyball team appeared to be having a great time.
Of course, it helped that they were reeling off one point after another during a 12-1 run in the second game of a three-game sweep of their 7A-Central Conference rivals at the Central gym.
The Lady Hornets improved to 4-4 in league play as they began the second half of the conference round-robin, strengthening their place in the standings and their chance at reaching the Class 7A State Tournament.
According to head coach Beth Solomon, Bryant was in sixth place going into the match and may have moved up to fifth with the win. Six teams from the league advance to State.
The varsity won 25-20, 25-10, 25-23 after the junior varsity rolled to 25-17, 25-20 wins.
Bryant will try to further secure its standing when it takes on Mount St. Mary’s Academy at home on Thursday, Oct. 1. The Belles won at Mount 3-1 earlier in the season.
The Lady Hornets varsity may have gotten off to too strong a start to the match when they built an 8-1 lead in the opening game. Kayla Davidson started things with a service ace. She would add another before Central managed a side-out. Amber Cope contributed a pair of kills, Jordan Armstrong picked up a point on a tip then Cope served up an ace. A kill by Taylor Shutt made it 8-1.
With that margin, the Lady Hornets seemed to lose a bit of their edge and Central rallied to tie it 10-10.
After Solomon called a timeout, the two teams traded points for awhile and the Lady Tigers actually pulled ahead 20-19. But a kill by Cope tied it and, with Kasey Baker in service, the Lady Hornets surged to victory, keyed by two clutch aces from the senior. Cope scored off a block and Davidson ended it with a kill.
“I think they just all went, wait a minute, what’s going on?” Solomon said of the turnaround. “I mean, we’re better than that team. I think a bunch of them were just ready to step up. That was the thing. They knew we should win this match in three, there was no reason for us to not.”
In the second game, the Lady Hornets scored the first two points, the second on a forceful kill by sophomore Brianna White. But Central pushed to a 4-3 edge before Bryant found the groove. White and Armstrong combined on a block that earned a side-out and, with Armstrong serving that included a whopping five aces, the Lady Hornets built a 12-4 advantage. Shutt contributed a kill along the way and White and Baker combined on a scoring block.
After a Central timeout, a tip into the net cost the Lady Hornets the serve but a net serve by the Lady Tigers returned control to Bryant.
With Jenifer Hubbard serving, Davidson picked up a point on a block and a hitting error by Central ran the margin to 15-5.
It was 19-9 when the Lady Hornets put on the final drive to the win. Davidson served a pair of aces then, after a service break, White hammered a kill. With Heather Light serving, Shutt finished the contest with three straight kills.
“The second game, we got on a roll and the third game shouldn’t have been as close as it was,” Solomon commented. “They shut down in the middle, they relaxed, they got confident and we let (Central) score way too many points in the third game.”
Bryant gained the advantage with a 10-1 run after it was 3-3 in the third game. Shutt had another pair of kills and Armstrong served up a couple of aces during that stretch. White contributed a kill and Davidson picked up a point off a tip.
Central surged after that, however and eventually pulled even at 22 then ahead by a point before Davidson came through with a kill to break serve. She then finished off the game and the match with back-to-back service aces.
In the JV game, the Lady Hornets led most of the first game but the margin was just 19-16 before Peyton Thacker’s dink broke serve. With Thacker serving then, the Lady Hornets picked up a point on a hitting error and, another on an ace to make it 22-16.
Central broke serve but couldn’t retain control. A long serve cost them and a pair of Lady Tigers hitting errors with Hubbard serving finished it.
In the second game, Bryant built a 6-3 lead with Hubbard serving a pair of aces and Sydney Manley getting a kill. But it was tight after that. The last tie was at 16. Hubbard had rotated around to serve again and quickly picked up two more aces. Manley added another kill and Jenna Bruick contributed a pair of aces during the closing surge. Maggie Hart closed out the game and the match with a kill.