Photos by Kevin Nagle
CONWAY — On Thursday, Sept. 11, the Bryant Lady Hornets traveled to Van Buren. On Thursday, Sept. 18, they bused to Alma. On Saturday, Sept. 20, they hit the road to Russellville where they spent all day playing in a tournament. So by the time they got to Conway for their 7A/6A-Central Conference match on Tuesday, Sept. 23, you could understand that they might be a little road weary.
“I counted up the hours over the last four Thursday’s,” noted Bryant coach Lawrence Jefferson. “We spent 26 ½ hours riding on the bus. That’s hard on the kids. It takes me about an hour to get my legs back, just coaching.”
The volleyball team, playing its matches on Tuesdays and Thursdays get the worst end of the new conference alignment, which includes home-and-home schedules with league members Siloam Springs, Alma, Greenwood, Russellville and Van Buren.
“It’s hard,” Jefferson acknowledged. “Us and Siloam have the farthest travel. Siloam has to come to us and Conway and Mount St. Mary’s. They have to travel to. It’s the same all the way around as far as that goes. We get there soon enough the girls should have time to acclimate but it’s hard.”
At Conway, the Lady Hornets weren’t quite on their game. And with the Lady Wampus Cats on the other side of the net, it wasn’t a good time. Bryant fell 8-25, 7-25, 19-25, their most one-sided defeat in 13 matches this season, including league-leading Russellville along with Texas High of Texarkana.
“I think we’re a lot better team than that,” Jefferson asserted. “We made semifinals of Spikefest. We made quarterfinals at Russellville. We won our pool in both tournaments we’ve been in. So I know we’re a lot better than what we showed today.
“They’re a good team,” he said of Conway. They hit well. Their quick hits in the middle — I think we were a little flat-footed tonight. My hat’s off to Conway. They’re a very good team. They got runner-up this past weekend in the Russellville tournament. They got beat by the Russellville team. In the last game, they got beat by two.
“There are things I think we need to work on,” he concluded. “We’ll hit it tomorrow and hopefully we’ll be ready for Thursday. You’re going to have these ups and downs, especially with a new coach.”
The Lady Hornets get to play at home on Thursday, the first of three in a row at home and four of the next five matches with the lone road trip to Mount St. Mary in Little Rock. Siloam Springs visits this Thursday.
Unofficially, Bryant’s Allie Anderson led all attackers with 13 kills but no one else had more than three for the Lady Hornets. Conway had 31 kills as a team, led by Allison Weatherly with 10. Alexa Hreha had eight, Sydney Hawkins seven and Chloe Brinkley 6.
The Lady Hornets struggled early to dig up the Conway hits as well as serve-receive. Whitney Brown wound up 17 digs for Bryant but the Lady Cats recorded 14 aces including four by Sydney Trickett.
Bryant served well but did not record an ace.
Conway ran out to a 16-2 lead in the first set. A kill by Nikki Clay interrupted the run but Weatherly countered and the run extended to 18-3 before Bryant rallied on four consecutive kills by Anderson that made it 19-8.
Brinkley’s kill, however, started a game-ending run by the Lady Cats that included two of Trickett’s aces.
In the second game, the Lady Hornets stayed close early. With a dink by Britney Sahlmann and a kill by Anderson, they were up 4-3. Weatherly tied it at 4 with a kill and the Lady Cats went on a 17-1 blitz to take control of the set.
In game three, Anderson’s kill accounted for the first point and, later, Kendall Selig had a kill that put the Lady Hornets up 4-3.
Conway tied on a block by Hawkins and gained the upper hand behind the serving of Jacklyn Quinit who had two aces as the lead built to 8-4.
The Lady Hornets didn’t let them get on a roll this time. Mercedes Dillard broke serve with a kill then Anderson followed up. But they could only cut it to 9-7.
Conway pushed it out to 18-11. Jefferson took a timeout and the Lady Hornets came back with a push to 18-15 but they would not get that close again after Hawkins, Alyson Brinkley and Brianna Wells produced kills as the lead grew to 24-16. Anderson and Savannah Shelton answered for the Lady Hornets and Sahlmann added a dink for a point as they cut it to 24-19 before Hreha’s kill ended it.