Tuesday, September 18, 2007

SPORTS >>NP ladies slowly take over to defeat Badgers

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Falcons recovered from a difficult opening game to take a 3-1 win over Beebe Thursday night at the North Pulaski High School gymnasium. The momentum was slow to build in the contest for North Pulaski (3-4, 1-3 conf.) in the 5A East Conference matchup, but the NP ladies were in complete control by the end of game three. Beebe (2-7, 0-4 conf.) began to show fatigue by game four, but frequent hitter substitutions for North Pulaski gave the home team fresher legs for what would be the final game.

“We’ve talked a lot about momentum,” NP coach Amanda Hill said. “How important it is in volleyball, and we’ve done some drills together to emphasize momentum. It took the kids a while to finally realize how important that is, but once we started doing it, I think it rattled Beebe a little bit, and gave us that extra boost of confidence that we needed.”

Hill attributed the better communication from her team in the last three games to added confidence after giving up the first game.

“That just comes with confidence,” Hill said. “When you have that confidence, you’re able to communicate better, and it looked a lot smoother than it did in that first game. When one team gets on a roll, it seems to always take some of the wind out of the other team.”

Beebe hitter Stephanie Faught posed serious problems for the Lady Falcons in the first game. Faught was the strongest of the Lady Badger net players, and a strong service game from teammate Micah Cox helped Beebe overcome a 15-10 deficit to take the lead in the late going.

A kill by Emily Rodgers tied things up at 19-19, and she followed that with an ace to give the Lady Badgers the lead and eventual 25-21 win.

The Lady Falcons didn’t let the loss in game one rattle them. In fact, the back-row play improved dramatically, but it would take a little longer for things to pan out on the front row.

It was errors from Beebe that mostly led to the early lead for the Lady Falcons in game two. North Pulaski used the hits into the net by Beebe to build up a 17-10 lead before NP setter Gabriella Cuellar made the play of the game on a kill attempt by Faught.

Cuellar dove out of bounds to knock the ball back to the Lady Badgers after a reactionary hit by Kalayah Anderson when Faught drove the ball straight to her.

Beebe was not able to return it, and the Lady Falcons’ lead increased to 18-10 en route to a 25-18 win that tied the match at one game each.

Once North Pulaski’s overall offense picked up steam in game three, the Lady Badgers struggled to stay in the game.

Jennifer Peters generated opportunities all over the court for the Lady Falcons in the third frame, and Tauneishia Ridgeway and Anderson thwarted most of Beebe’s kill attempts.

North Pulaski sophomore front row players Ashley Bures and Rae Robinson also seemed to improve their timing at the net, recording some impressive kills in the final two games after a number of errors early on.

Faught and Cox lost some of their energy during the final game, leaving teammate Megan Hensley as essentially the lone points generator for the quickly depleting Lady Badgers squad.

North Pulaski took the third game decisively at 25-14, completing the 3-1 win for the Lady Falcons’ first league win of the season.

The Lady Falcons will play at Paragould on Tuesday before returning home on Thursday to take on the Blytheville Lady Chickasaws.

The Lady Badgers will host Nettleton on Tuesday, and will remain at home on Thursday when the Lady Rams of Paragould visit for another 5A-East Conference matchup.