Lady Hornets find winning formula on the road
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).
The steady improvement of the Bryant Lady Hornets volleyball team took a major step on Thursday, Sept. 14, when they captured their first victory of the season, 15-10, 8-15, 15-7, over the Malvern Lady Leopards. The Lady Hornets then kept moving up on Tuesday, Sept. 19, with their first AAAAA-South Conference victory over the Lake Hamilton Lady Wolves, 15-8, 15-10.
“It was really impressive,” said head coach Doug Maxwell of Thursday’s win. “The ladies worked well together and communicated really well on the floor and, the areas where we had a couple of problems, a couple of weaknesses in the past, they overcame them and picked it up.
“They’re getting to the point right now where they’re starting to coach themselves,” Maxwell added. “The few sticking points that we had in the match (at Lake Hamilton), when I’d call a timeout and we’d get together, what impressed me most was, even before I could say anything, the girls are saying ‘Coach Maxwell, I didn’t keep my head down on that ball right there’ or ‘I didn’t have my elbow up when I attacked that ball. I need to get it, I’m going to get it next time.’ It wasn’t anything I was saying.
“I told them all along when they get to the point where they can coach themselves out there, that’s when we’re going to step it up and we know we’re a lot better ballclub,” he stated.
The win over the Lady Wolves was highlighted by the best serving night of the season.
“Serving was definitely in good form,” Maxwell noted. “We spent a lot of time working on that the last couple of days. It definitely came through and showed up (Tuesday). We served 98 percent as a squad. We missed one serve out of 42 serves. And we finished up with 12 aces. A real strong performance by everyone.
“We weren’t really serving for aces,” he added. “We’ve worked a lot on placement of it instead of coming after it and just reaching back and waylaying it. We worked more on placing it, putting it in spots where we’ve got control of it and looking to see who we need to put the ball in the hands of.”
Courtney Stone was the top server. She was 15 for 16 with six aces. Kelli Steed was 10 for 10 with two aces and Jodi Hantz was 7 for 7 with three aces.
“We had a strong defensive game,” Maxwell noted. “Passing-wise, we did a good job. (Lake Hamilton) did get a couple of good hits on us but our back row was there and they dug the ball up.
“We’re continuing to get it done so we can pass, set and hit,” he added. “That’s our ballgame. That’s what we’ve worked hard to be and we’re at that point right now.”
Ashley Fitz led the Lady Hornets’ attack going 8 for 9 with two kills. She also had a dink. Jodi Hantz went 6 for 6 with two kills and Jennifer Smith was three for three with two kills.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of blocking,” Maxwell noted. “We really took them out of their game and forced them to do a lot from their back row and tip across the top of us.”
Still, Fitz had a pair of solo blocks. Hantz and Katie Hill teamed up for a block and Hantz and Smith combined on another.
Hantz also came up with three digs to match Steed for team-high honors. Hill chipped in with two digs.
At Malvern, the Lady Hornets opened by winning their second game of the season then absorbed a loss in the second game to set up a rubber game. It was a situation similar to their previous outing against El Dorado when, after winning the first game, the Lady Hornets dropped the next two and were unable to win the match. But Maxwell wasn’t feeling any déjà vu.
“I was feeling really good about it right from the warm-ups,” he stated. “I don’t know. Usually, I can get a good feel for what the team’s doing in the warm-up and they were really attacking the ball well in the warm-up. They were digging everything up. They were excited. You could see the energy out there and, I think, with us being away from home, there wasn’t as much pressure. The stands weren’t nearly as full there — we still had a good crowd from Bryant, I was really impressed by that — but a little of the pressure was off not being at home and playing in front of the home crowd. I think that helped out a lot.”
The comeback in the third game, Maxwell indicated, was just an indication of the development of the team. “I think, right now, it’s composure on the court,” he said. “It’s confidence in yourself and the more games we get behind us, the more confidant they’re going to get in what they’re doing, in what their teammate is doing.
“One of the major concerns we had as a team after El Dorado was that, individually, we were reaching out a lot, we weren’t relying on each other as a team as much,” Maxwell explained. “A lot of (the girls), individually, were trying to take care of it themselves and that’s not the way we play the game. We can’t get it done that way. We’ve got to trust in each other and know that our teammates are going to be there behind us to back us up. We can’t be reaching back and going wildly at balls. And that was the difference. A lot of it was communication and that just comes with time and experience.”
Fitz led the Lady Hornets’ offensively. She was 19 of 20 attacking with seven kills. Hantz also had seven kills going 9 of 10 on the attack. Aleshia Joyce added two kills in six attacks. Joyce also had a pair of dinks with Natalie Powell and Fitz contributing a dink apiece.
Steed was the top server. She was 18 of 19 with five aces.
“The big difference at Malvern was blocking,” Maxwell said. “We had a lot of big blocks.”
Fitz was 5 for 5 including a pair of solo stuff blocks, Chandace Cantrell was 4 for 4.
Katie Hill contributed four digs and Steed three.
The Lady Hornets were scheduled to host Little Rock Parkview on Thursday, Sept. 21, before heading to Sheridan on Sept. 26 to begin the second half of the conference season.