Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SPORTS >> NP ladies beat Sylvan Hills in league opener

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski got a big win to open 5A Southeast Conference volleyball play Monday night, beating Sylvan Hills in five hard-fought sets to take the victory. Monday’s match came on the heels of both teams participating in the Spikefest Tournament on Saturday. That tournament featured 28 teams and was spread out over four locations in Little Rock.

In Monday’s matchup, the Lady Falcons overcame a two-sets-to-one deficit, winning the fourth and fifth sets to steal the victory from the visiting Lady Bears. Scores in the match were for North Pulaski 25-22, 17-25, 21-25, 25-14 and 15-7.

“One thing about these girls is they aren’t going to quit,” North Pulaski coach Ben Belton said. “We’ve got a lot of things to work on, a lot of things we need to do to get better, but they don’t quit.”

North Pulaski had leads in every set, and big leads in each of the two it lost. The Lady Bears came back from a 10-2 deficit in set two to take it, then rallied from 12 points down in the third set to win it and take a 2-1 lead. North Pulaski led 16-4 in the third, but Sylvan Hills outscored the home team 21-6 from that point.

“There really wasn’t ever a set where, at one point or another, that we weren’t in control,” Belton said. “One of the things we have to start doing is finishing. We can’t keep letting teams come back on us when we’ve got them down that much. We have to finish teams off. We were fortunate to go ahead and get that win. But we made it hard on ourselves. Take nothing away from Syvlan Hills. They battled and they got themselves back in it and deserved to be there. We just didn’t do the things we needed to do.”

North Pulaski’s service game was the difference. When it was on, Sylvan Hills struggled, but the Lady Falcons were inconsistent.

Sophomore Emily Long had several long services, and her jump serve dominated the fourth set.

“She hadn’t jump served the whole match, but I knew she was capable,” Belton said. “When I asked her to do it in the fourth set, Sylvan Hills really had trouble with it.”

Long started serving in the fourth with North Pulaski trailing 3-1. She finished with her team up 9-4. A few rotations later, she served again, this team leading 17-14, and served the set out.

Other Lady Falcons had long services at times in the match. Shelby Floyd served eight straight points to start the match. Megan Chargualaf served eight straight at one point, and Shelby Floyd served the last three of the match.

“We’ve got a few kids that have really good serves. They’re just not consistent with it and don’t have the confidence in it to really go after it,” Belton said. “We’re still a young team. If we can get everything going like I think we can, we’re going to be pretty good.”

Over the weekend, North Pulaski was put into a tough pool with class 7A Bentonville, and 6A Van Buren and Sheridan. Pool play in Spikefest was a two-set round robin, with each team playing two sets against every other team. Bentonville and Van Buren swept North Pulaski and Sheridan, while North Pulaski and Sheridan split with each other.

After pool play, North Pulaski went to tournament play and beat Little Rock Hall before losing to Mills.

“I was most disappointed in the Mills game,” Belton said. “Bentonville and Van Buren are outstanding teams. They’re big, athletic and most of them play pretty much year round. We did pretty well against Sheridan, but we just didn’t play against Mills. I don’t know if we put a ball down that whole match. I know this, they didn’t get our best. Hopefully it will be different next time we see them.”

North Pulaski and Sylvan Hills will both continue conference play at 5 p.m. Thursday. North Pulaski will play an away game at Little Rock Christian. Sylvan Hills will play at home against Central Arkansas Christian.