Monday, September 27, 2010

SPORTS >> Lady Falcons take five-game thriller to earn league victory

IN SHORT: North Pulaski rallied from deficits in second and third games to take overall lead from Central Arkansas Christian and dominated last game.

By Jason King
Leader sports writer

Victory slipped away from North Pulaski in Game 4, but the Lady Falcons responded by blowing out visiting Central Arkansas Christian 15-6 in the fifth and final game to win 3-2 at the Falcons Nest on Tuesday.

The Lady Falcons (5-5, 2-4 5A Southeast) were in position to claim the match with a 2-1 lead going into in the fourth game. North Pulaski went ahead 24-20, but CAC rallied to tie the game 24-24, beginning a marathon conclusion to the game that eventually went to the Lady Mustangs by an almost unheard of 34-32 score.

“They came on real strong at the end like they needed to,” Lady Falcons coach Doug Belcher said. “CAC is more than we want. They’re a good team. We could have finished it earlier, but they kept battling back and forth.”

The Lady Mustangs (2-3 in conference) also had their share of missed opportunities. After winning the first game 25-14, they quickly took control of the second and marched to a 23-16 lead.

But the Lady Falcons battled back on the strength of sophomore Shelby Floyd’s service game and a few timely kills from hard-hitting Shala Clemons to overtake CAC with a 9-0 run to win 25-23.
“This is a big win for them, because they have been lacking in that focus,” North Pulaski assistant coach Ben Belton said. “Tonight, I think, will really turn the tables for them. They played with the drive and finished like they should have been all year long.”

CAC senior hitter Shelby Tankersley and sophomore blocker Logan Tolbert took control at the net early in the first game. Both had four kills each, while Marleigh Mills served a pair of aces to hold momentum.

Clemons did not make a lot of noise until midway through Game 2, when she stunned the CAC defense with a kill that carried into the backcourt to cut the Lady Mustangs’ lead to 14-10. It was the first of seven kills in the game for the senior hitter, who finished with a match-high 19.

While Clemons took control at the net, senior setter and team captain Kaylee Belcher came through with consistent feeds to her teammates, and senior libero Lindsey Silvas stepped up her defensive play in the backcourt.

“Most of the teams we play have one player — we have four or five dominating players at the net when they show up and play,” Belton said. “Defensively, we have two or three girls — Lindsey Silvas — no team has a Lindsey Silvas that can play defensively the way she does.”

The Lady Falcons were faced with another late deficit in the third game.

Two straight outs against North Pulaski and a kill by Tolbert gave the Lady Mustangs a 20-15 lead. But North Pulaski fought back with a tip by Belcher and a kill by Floyd, who then served another ace to cut CAC’s lead to 21-19.

The Lady Mustangs reached game point with a 24-22 lead, but Paige Almond’s serve went out, and teammate Jordan Jones was charged with hitting underneath on the next point to tie. That sent Belcher to the line, and she served an ace to give the Lady Falcons game point.

Clemons came through again for the Lady Falcons with a roundhouse hit that, while not scored a kill, was not returned by CAC.

Missed opportunities abounded in the fourth game. North Pulaski went up 24-20 with four chances to seal the match, but the Lady Mustangs got a pair of kills and forced two North Pulaski errors to tie.

From there, the Lady Falcons had four other game points, while the Lady Mustangs finally closed on their fourth game point.

It proved all for naught in Game 5 when Belcher’s service game helped lead the Lady Falcons to an 8-0 lead. Junior Stevie Hughes blocked a CAC kill attempt for the first point, followed by a kill for Clemons and two aces for Belcher.

Floyd extended the lead with a pair of kills, and senior Breanna Willis put the exclamation point on the match with a tip over the net.

“We’re strong all the way around, it’s just getting them to click when they’re supposed to,” Doug Belcher said. “It’s hard, because you want to pull your hair out sometimes, but that was a good game.”

Floyd had 10 kills and four aces, while Willis added eight kills. Belcher had eight aces and seven kills, and Hughes finished with five kills and three blocks.

Tolbert led CAC with 14 kills, four aces and two blocks.