Lady Panthers runner-up at state
The Benton Lady Panthers volleyball team pose with their 5A State Tournament runner-up trophy after falling to the Jonesboro Lady Hurricane Saturday at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs.
– Reaching the state finals for the first time since 2013 after winning it in 2009, it wasn’t meant to be for the Benton Lady Panthers Saturday morning at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs. The Jonesboro Lady Hurricane would sweep the Lady Panthers 3-0 to claim their second straight 5A State Tournament championship.
Jonesboro finished its season without a loss, going 35-0 overall, and were just two much for the Lady Panthers on Saturday. The Lady Hurricane took the first set 25-15, won the second 25-13 and after Benton went up 15-6 in the third, Jonesboro came back to claim the third set 28-26 in a great battle. Hurricane senior captain Clara Parker took the state championship MVP.
“We did what we wanted to do,” Benton first-year Coach Michelle Shoppach said. “The kids followed our directions really well. Jonesboro just overpowered us. Defensively we weren’t able to finish what we wanted to so we weren’t able to get as many swings as we wanted to.”
The Lady Panthers (25-4) took a 1-0 lead in the first set on a double block for point by junior Hannah Brewer and senior Riley Hathcote. Jonesboro tied things up at 1-1 before Benton junior Katie Strickland picked up a kill and another double block by Brewer and senior setter Lydia Buchanan made it a 3-1 Benton lead.
The Lady Panthers went up 4-2 on freshman Abigail Lagemann’s kill, with Brewer spiking down two to put Benton up 6-4. Jonesboro fought back to take a 7-6 lead, but Benton would tie things up at 8-8 after sophomore Laci Bohannan’s kill.
It would be all Lady Hurricane after that, though, as senior Maggie Beth Horn had two kills assisted by senior setter Kellen Church to start a 5-0 run, taking a 13-8 lead Jonesboro would never relinquish as the
Lady Hurricane claimed the 10-point win.
Looking timid in the second set, the Lady Panthers were never in it as they couldn’t set up a consistent attack, and unforced errors led to their downfall in the 12-point loss.
“The kids kept fighting, looking for answers,”
Shoppach said. “We made 14,000 adjustments and they would work two or three points, and then Jonesboro would come through and go on a 2- or 3-point run.”
Benton looked a like a different team in the third set as the Lady Panthers were big at the net with Bohanan spiking one down to start a 4-0 run which included consecutive double blocks and capped by a Hathcote kill. Jonesboro responded with a 4-0 run capped by two Mikayla Johnson kills to take a 5-4 lead, but the Lady Panthers responded with their longest run of the match (8-0) began by Buchanan’s kill and senior Mary Grace Guerra’s ace, while Brewer had three consecutive kills for the 12-5 lead.
Two more Brewer kills put the Lady Panthers up 15-6, but Jonesboro went on a 7-1 run capped by three consecutive kills by Horn to get within 16-13. The Lady Hurricane continued to whittle the lead down before Bohannan put one down to give Benton a 19-16 lead, but Jonesboro would tie things up 19-19 aided by Benton mishits.
The Hurricane would go up 22-20 after a Parker kill, but Benton didn’t fold. A couple of Brewer kills and a double block by Lagemann and senior Katie Morrison tied things at 23-23, and it looked as if Benton went up 24-23 on another double block by Bohannan and Morrison, but a net call gave the point to Jonesboro.
It was back and forth the rest of the way as Bohannan put one down to tie things at 26-all, but kills from Parker and Johnson gave the Lady Hurricane the sweep and state title.
“I’m really please with how we fought in the third set,” Shoppach said. “We needed to get that third set and finish it off.”
Brewer led the Lady Panthers with 12 kills, five double blocks and a solo block, while Buchanan led the way with 28 assists, adding two kills and two double blocks.
Bohannan had seven kills, Hathcote had four kills and two double blocks, and Lagemann had three kills and two double blocks. Morrison added two kills and a double block, Strickland and sophomore Bissette Childress had a kill each and Guerra had an ace.
The Lady Panthers will say goodbye to seven seniors, including Buchanan, Hathcote, Morrison, Guerra, Raeley Wilson, Grace Neighbors and Kirsten Garner, who couldn’t play due to injury.
But, Benton’s future looks bright with plenty of talent returning.
“Super proud,” Shoppach said holding back tears.
“It’s been fun. I’ve had them since the eighth grade. It’s been fun to practice, it’s been fun to play, it’s been really fun when we’ve gotten to play quality opponents.
It’s been fun to see them grow as young ladies.”
Benton senior Grace Neighbors, 20, and sophomore Laci Bohannan go up for a block in a 3-0 loss to the Jonesboro Lady Hurricane in the 5A state title game Saturday at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs.
Benton junior Hannah Brewer spikes a ball in a 3-0 loss to Jonesboro in the 5A state title game Saturday at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs Saturday. Brewer led the Lady Panthers with 12 kills in the championship game defeat. Benton finishes with a 25-4 record overall.
Benton sophomore Bissette Childress passes a ball in a 3-0 loss to Jonesboro in the 5A State Tournament championship game at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs Saturday.