BRYANT — The Bryant Lady Hornets’ inconsistency has subsided for the time being according to Coach Beth Solomon and it showed as Bryant defeated 7A Central conference foe North Little Rock 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-19) on Thursday night in Bryant.
Even though both the Lady Hornets and Lady Charging Wildcats have a 5-2 conference record, Bryant holds the tie-breaker between the two teams, giving them second place behind Conway.
“Since we beat North Little Rock, technically we’re in second place,” Solomon said. “I don’t remember Bryant volleyball doing that (being second place in conference) and I’ve been here for seven years. That’s a big accomplishment going into second round.
“Big win. We needed it [Thursday night]. After Van Buren, we knew this was going to be our big game. The Conway, Van Buren, North Little Rock stretch is always our hardest stretch.”
The Lady Hornets (6-3, 5-2) went 2-1 during that stretch, coming back from an 0-2 hole to defeat Van Buren on Tuesday, and losing to Conway last week.
Bryant was in the first game the whole way and the score was tied 19-19 before North Little Rock scored six of the next nine points with the help of the Lady Hornets’ unforced errors. Bryant served it out twice in the last nine points and four times for the game in losing a close one, 22-25.
The Lady Hornets were up 16-10 in game two before they let the Lady Charging Wildcats ((7-3, 5-2) score six of the next eight points to get within 18-16, but North Little Rock made unforced errors of their own to allow Bryant to win 25-21, capped by junior McKenzie Rice’s kill.
“They outplayed us,” North Little Rock Coach Cheryl Bing said. “They just wanted it more than we did. A few times, we didn’t pass the ball or hit the ball like we were supposed to and you’re going to get beat when you play tentative and you don’t pass or hit.”
Up 20-18 in the third game, the Lady Hornets scored five straight for the win, including two kills from Rice, a kill each from senior Taylor West and junior Brooke Howell, and an ace from Howell to end the game.
“You’re going to get beat against good teams [when unforced errors are made],” Bing said. “You can’t have the hitting errors and missed serves – we missed more serves than we normally do. That’s one of the things that are going to get you beat.”
“The girls stepped it up tonight,” Solomon said. “We knew they were going to hit at us. Our passers were ready tonight. Lauren Reed had a great game; she’s had a great week.”
Reed, a senior, led the Lady Hornets with 16 digs in the match. She was also a perfect 8 for 8 on her passes and was 24 for 28 in serve receives in play.
“Our hits were on,” Solomon said. “That was a big part of it too. The girls played smart. They found the holes and put the ball there. They found their girls that were off and went right to them.”
Howell led the Lady Hornets with five kills in the fourth game and had 14 for the match. She had two in a row to give Bryant an 8-5 lead and had one kill and two consecutive aces during the Lady Hornets 8-0 to end the final game. Howell also had four aces to lead the team and added 12 digs.
“Brooke has been one of our solid hitters,” Solomon said. “She started the season as our most solid hitter and kind of went through a little lull there.
“She’s finally coming out of it. Were excited to have that back. She’s starting to play smarter, she’s placing the ball, finding the holes – things we’ve got to have on the court.”
Bryant was down 13-15 in the fourth game, but went on a 13-3 run to close the match out.
“I’m proud of them,” Solomon said. “This gives us a good burst going into second round. The big thing is, the girls are playing for each other right now.
“The inconsistency is finally starting to wear off. It’s finally clicking. We’re excited. We’re hoping we’re only going up from here on out.”
Rice had 18 kills to lead the team and added 13 digs, and her twin sister, Hannah Rice, had 40 of the Lady Hornets 44 assists in the match.
The Lady Hornets’ junior varsity team won the first game of their match 25-22, but lost the next two by close margins 24-26 and 14-16 to lose 2-1 to the North Little Rock JV team. Bryant sophomore Caylin Choate led the team with 22 digs, junior Courtney Davidson had eight kills and junior Carley Choate had seven assists and four aces to lead the Lady Hornets’ JV.