Benton sweeps Bryant in regular-season finale
BRYANT – The Bryant Lady Hornets hosted the Benton Lady Panthers for senior night Thursday at the Hornet’s Nest in Bryant, but couldn’t pull off the upset. Benton would sweep Bryant 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-17) to end the Lady Hornets season
“It feels really good,” Benton senior libero Mary Grace Guerra said. “This is always our favorite game of the year. It’s a rivalry and with the Salt Bowl (which Benton lost), it was really good to beat them in volleyball. I’m really proud of how we played.”
“We look forward to this,” senior Grace Neighbors added. “It’s more than just a random game to us. It means a lot more to us.”
The Lady Hornets gave the Lady Panthers all they wanted in the first set as
a kill from Bryant junior Madelyn Hoskins assisted by junior Alyssa Hernandez made it a 6-6 game. Bryant would take a 9-8 lead and it would be tied again at 12-apiece after Ivory Russ’ kill, but the Lady Panthers punched back as freshman Abigail Lagemann’s kill started a 4-0 run, capped by two aces from senior Lydia Buchanan.
With Benton up 20-18, the Lady Panthers outscored Bryant 5-2 the rest of the way for the first set win.
“We knew this was their senior night, their last match of the season, so we knew they would come with a lot of energy,” Benton Coach Michelle Shoppach said. “They’ve been playing in the 6A Central, so they have had good competition every Tuesday and Thursday. We knew they would be much better than they were in August and they came out and showed it. They stayed even with us, were ahead and we were able to fight back.”
It was all Benton the second set. Tied 1-1 after Bryant senior Truli Bates’ kill, the Lady Panthers went
on a 9-0 run which included two aces from Guerra. Bryant fought back to make it a 16-9 deficit after junior Sam Still’s ace, but Benton went on a 5-0 run to put the game out of reach. A double block from sophomore Laci Bohannan and junior Skylar Goff ended the match as Benton’s blocking was big all night.
“They (Lady Panthers) took in what we’ve been working on,” Benton assistant coach Rachel Dodson said. “We’ve actually seen the small little things … they (Bryant) can jump out of the gym, but the little technical things we’ve been working on, they actually applied those. I’m glad we had a successful night so we can carry that on next week in the state tournament.”
The Lady Hornets took a 5-3 lead in the third set after a block for point by junior Sammie Jo Ferguson, but Benton responded with a 6-0 run capped by an ace from sophomore Bissette Childress.
Bryant made it an 11-9 game, but another 6-0 run by Benton, this one capped by a Lagemann kill made it a 17-9 Lady Panther lead. Bryant responded with a 4-0 run capped by a Hernandez ace, but Benton responded with a 4-0 run of its own
leading to the eventual sweep.
While Bryant’s season is over, Benton will begin play in the 5A State Tournament on Tuesday at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs. The
Lady Panthers, the South No. 1 seed, will play Central No. 4 seed Maumelle at 1 p.m.
“We’re really excited to play the big games,” Guerra said. “We don’t get
a whole lot of really challenging games throughout conference, but we’re really excited to be challenged next week and pull out some wins.”
“We’ve been very successful,”
Neighbors added. “We don’t really play a lot of high-caliber teams, so that’s a little bit why, but we are doing well together so I think we’re going to be very good this state season.”
Benton sophomore Laci Bohannan, 8, and freshman Abigail Lagemann, 10, go up to block Bryant junior Ella Reynolds shot in a 3-0 Lady Panthers sweep over Bryant in the Hornet’s Nest in Bryant Thursday.
Bryant senior Erin Thompson, 5, passes the ball in a 3-0 sweep by Benton Thursday in Bryant.