State Tournament win sends Lady Hornets to quarterfinals
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).
BENTONVILLE — For the first time in recent history (if not ever), the Bryant Lady Hornets volleyball team has won a match in State Tournament play.
Like the road warriors they’ve been all season, the Lady Hornets played one of their best matches, taking the measure of the Rogers Heritage Lady War Eagles in straight sets, 25-19, 25-17, 25-23, in the first round of the Class 7A State tourney at Bentonville High School Tuesday.[more]
“You could tell they were nervous,” acknowledged Bryant head coach Beth Solomon. “That first 10 points of the first game or so, they played well but you could just tell they were so nervous that, when the (Heritage) coach called timeout, we took the girls over and told them to just breathe. They all took a big deep breath and then they were fine. They went out and they played really well.
“Since I’ve been at Bryant (six years), it’s the first game we’ve won at State,” she mentioned. “These girls are making history this year for sure. They’re definitely setting the bar.
The win set up a showdown with host Bentonville at 2 p.m. today.
“I’m excited about (today),” Solomon said. “It’ll obviously be a harder match because we’re playing Bentonville at Bentonville but we are a road team. We play better on the road. So we’re going to try to treat it like it’s any other away game, with just a little bit more at stake.”
During the regular season, the Lady Hornets were 6-1 on the other teams’ courts.
The Lady Hornets put the Lady War Eagles on their heels at the outset with extremely effective service. Hannah Rice had seven aces including three in the first game and three in a key spot in the third one.
“The first two games went pretty well, to our advantage,” Solomon recounted. “In the third game, we kind of started to do our letdown, lull thing a couple of times and at one point in the game we were down 23-18. Just like we always do, we fought back.”
Often this year, that scenario developed on Bryant and the Lady Horents would fall just short of coming back all the way. The match would be extended to a fourth or fifth game. Not this time, however.
“We won it, 25-23,” Solomon continued. “I told the girls, this is the first match we’ve won in three but they corrected me and said the first time we played Cabot, we beat them in three. But, other than that, it is the first one we’ve won in three.
“We missed a couple of serves but we weren’t upset about it because the girls served so aggressively,” she related. “Those few missed serves didn’t hurt us. And it’s always a good day when our serves are on because we have the girls that can serve. Hannah Rice, there at the end when we were down 23-18, she got us at least three aces in a row just being aggressive. I don’t know that (Heritage) was ready for us to come out and play they way we did.
“Sydney Manley had an outstanding game,” Solomon stated. “She got some pretty good digs that I don’t know if I’ve even seen her get all season, some that a lot of people wouldn’t have gotten.
“And that’s one thing that seems to really work for us — Coach Long and I were talking about it — is that we have the defense to back up our hitters. A lot of teams don’t have that. And that’s going to help us this week big time.”
The Lady Hornets were led by Courtney Davidson and Maggie Hart with eight kills apiece. Breanna White added five kills, two blocks and three assisted blocks. Solomon also praised the play of McKenzie Rice at the net.
“Bree had a couple of really good blocks,” noted the coach. “(Heritage) had one strong hitter — they had several good hitters but one that was a really strong hitter. Once we started blocking her and shutting her down, they really didn’t know what to do.
“Our outside hitters had a pretty good day,” Solomon added. “Maggie Hart has started really stepping it up the last few games. She did the same thing (against Heritage). Her arm swing’s gotten much faster and she’s gotten to be a much smarter player as far as where she needs to put the ball and things like that.
“We didn’t have just one outstanding in kills but if I had to pick one it’d probably be Courtney Davidson,” she mentioned.