When the Bryant Lady Hornets volleyball team went to Little Rock to play the Mount St. Mary Belles in early September at the McAuley Center, the Hornets lost to the Belles in four games due in large part to inconsistency.
On Thursday night, the Hornets revenged the loss to their rivals defeating them in four games – 3-1 (17-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-17) – at home. The win gave Bryant its fourth 7A Central conference victory in a row and the Hornets are sitting comfortably in second place behind the Conway Lady Wampus Cats, which they play on Oct. 11 in Conway.
“Our defense stepped up tonight,” Bryant Coach Beth Solomon said. “Our defense played their butts off tonight. Alyssa Anderson played big on front row. It was another big night for our middle. Bri[anna] White played really big again. Our outside hitters did a great job – McKenzie [Rice] and Brooke [Howell] both.
“Mount is our rival,” Solomon said. “I don’t really know why, it’s just how the girls are. Tonight was a big, big game for them.”
The Lady Hornets (8-3, 7-2 Central) were down 4-10 in the first game, but after a timeout, they went on an 8-3 run aided by three kills from Howell and capped by a kill from Anderson, who finished with nine kills and a block for the match. The Belles’ defense proved too much though as they were blocking well and digging everything on their way to a 25-17 win.
The second set was close the whole way through and with Bryant down 14-15, the Lady Hornets outscored the Belles 11-4, starting with a White kill and ending with a Rice kill, on their way to a 25-19 win. White finished with seven kills and her three blocks led the team.
Errors by Mount St. Mary, which is 4-5 in conference, and good execution and defense by Bryant paved the way for a game two victory.
“We needed to start acting like we were the second-place team and that’s what they did that second game,” Solomon said. “Carley Choate went in off the bench and played really good. She played back row for us and definitely helped us out. That seemed to be something that really turned that second game around for us.”
“I thought Bryant played really well,” Belles’ Coach Kelly O’Rourke said. “We came out to play the first game; they kind of turned it around and we couldn’t change it.”
With the Lady Hornets up 16-15 in game three, Bryant finished the set on a 9-2 run, including two kills from the junior Anderson. Mount St. Mary looked out of it for most of the game and Bryant took advantage.
“We fell apart a little on serve-receive; couldn’t quite get the passes that we needed,” O’Rourke explained. “And we kept sending them easy, easy hits over the net and they were able to capitalize on it.”
“Started getting our blocks there, started shutting down some of their hitters,” Solomon said. “Then they went to the tip game, and we’re going to get all of their tip balls.”
The Hornets were down 10-11 in the fourth game, and after a timeout, Bryant scored three consecutive and never relinquished its lead. Up by three, the Lady Hornets started a 6-0 run with a kill from White and then the Rice sisters, both juniors, took over. McKenzie had three kills and twin sister Hannah had two aces the next five points to put Bryant up 22-13, on its way to an eight-point win. McKenzie led the team with 16 kills and Hannah led with 34 assists and three aces for the match.
“We put some different players in, mixed some stuff up, put some girls at different positions,” Solomon said about the difference from the first-game loss. “It seemed to help, it seemed to be what worked for us.
“And our defense said, ‘Hey you know what, we’re going to start playing’ and that’s what they did ...”
“Bryant has become one of those [teams] that you never know what is going to happen when we play them,” O’Rourke said. “We play them at our place and we’re able to beat them in four and we come here – they’ve improved quite a bit from the first time we played them.”
Junior varsity starters Courtney Davidson and Carley Choate got some solid playing time with the varsity, with Choate contributing two aces and solid back-row play, and Davidson getting two kills including the last point of the final set. Senior Lauren Reed led the team with 18 digs and the junior Howell added 11 kills and 10 digs.
Bryant’s JV lost to MSM’s JV 2-1 (25-20, 20-25, 5-15) and were led by Choate’s 10 assists, nine digs and three aces. Sophomores Aubree Allen and Erica Smith, and senior Alex Boone each had three kills to lead the team.