Ben­ton sweeps Bryant in reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Tony Le­na­han tle­na­[email protected]­ton­courier.com

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.”

RICK NA­TION/ Spe­cial to The Saline Courier

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.

RICK NA­TION/SPE­CIAL to The Saline Courier

Bryant se­nior Erin Thomp­son, 5, passes the ball in a 3-0 sweep by Ben­ton Thurs­day in Bryant.

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