MOUNTAIN HOME — The Benton Lady Panthers assured themselves of a rematch with the team that ousted them from last year’s Class 6A Tournament by taking a 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-11) sweep of the fourth-seeded Van Buren Lady Pointers in the quarterfinals Wednesday at The Hangar in Mountain Home.
Benton now faces the host Mountain Home Lady Bombers — who upset the Lady Panthers in last year’s quarterfinals — at 4 p.m. today in the semifinal round.
Benton — 17-8 and the 6A-South’s top seed — held off a Lady Pointer rally in the first game, but the Lady Panthers were the ones who rallied in the second set.
Benton posted an easy victory in the third game, receiving an offensive boost from senior Emily Morgan.
Morgan, who made just two kills in the first two games, came alive in the final set to slam seven kills and finish the Lady Panther victory.
Kristen Ryan recorded a kill for the match’s first point, and the Lady Panthers did not trail in the set until the 16-15 mark, after a hitting error.
Hitting errors and net violations were Benton’s downfall in the first set, as Van Buren scored most of its points off Benton miscues.
Benton led 15-10 at one point in the first game, but Van Buren rallied to take leads of 16-15 and 18-17 in the set.
With the game tied at 19-19, Benton’s Erin Jackson smashed a kill to start a 4-0 run for the Lady Panthers that ultimately led them to victory.
Benton scored the first two points of the second game, but Van Buren held a lead as big as 10-5 at one point, after a stuff block from Paige Beckner.
Benton went on a 7-2 run, however, to catch up at 12-12, thanks to two hitting errors and a service error by the Lady Pointers.
The last tie of the game came at 15-15, then the Lady Panthers made an 8-2 run with Morgan, Jackson and Allison Reynolds making kills.
Holding a 24-19 lead, Benton had to weather four straight points from Van Buren before putting the game away.
The third game was all Benton as Ryan, Reynolds and Alex Williams added two kills each to Morgan¹s offensive outburst in the set.
Morgan¹s nine total kills led the Lady Panthers in the match, while Williams added seven and Ryan, Reynolds and Jackson added five each.
Hayley Ferguson, Courtland Kaufholtz and Ryan notched eight digs each to lead Benton, and Williams added seven, while also supplying most of Benton’s assists from her setter position. Jackson led with four blocks.
Kelsey Webb tallied a match-high 15 digs to lead Van Buren, while Stephanie Carter added eight and Malorie Mullens totaled six.
Beckner slammed seven kills, Mullens had six, Webb made four and Michala Mooney had three for the Lady Pointers.