Saturday, October 08, 2011

SPORTS>>North Pulaski earns big win

Leader sportswriter

Consistent serving was the only advantage North Pulaski had over visiting Beebe, but it was enough for the Lady Falcons to win a vital 5A-Southeast Conference match in four games, 25-23, 25-23, 22-25, 27-25 at the Falcons Nest on Tuesday.

Beebe matched the Lady Falcons pound for pound in sets and spikes, but the Lady Badgers’ struggles at the service line, as well as receiving serves, proved to be their unraveling.

“They made us work hard the last two sets,” North Pulaski coach Ben Belton said. “They’re a scrappy bunch – their players are smart and they are well coached, obviously, but I’m proud of my girls. This was a game we had to win, and we needed to win.”

The Lady Badgers actually edged North Pulaski when it came to blocks and kills with 38 kills, led by hard-hitting junior Stephanie Pollnow with 20, and eight team blocks, including six from senior Emily Epperson. But Beebe gave up 23 aces to the Lady Falcons while coming away with only five of their own for the match.

North Pulaski’s best answer for Pollnow’s dominance at the net was senior Shelby Floyd, who led the Lady Falcons with 12 kills. It was also Floyd’s six aces with four more from Kelsey Locklin that proved to be the difference in the closely-contested matchup.

The Lady Falcons had 30 team kills and three blocks.

“Shelby is by far playing to the best of her ability,” Belton said. “I don’t care where she is or what she is doing, she’s playing as hard as she possibly can. She’s our strength, and we should be building around that.”

The Lady Falcons cruised through game four and built a 20-15 lead before the Lady Badgers showed their resilience and fought back to tie it at 22. A kill by Pollnow gave Beebe a brief 24-23 lead, but North Pulaski ended the threat of a fifth game with a kill by Locklin and a tipped kill by Kelsey Whitmore at match point to put Beebe away.

“When you’re 20-16, you’re supposed to finish,” Belton said. “And you turn around and let them right back in, and have to fight to win. I don’t like that mentality. That frustrates me. I don’t know what to do about it, but it frustrates me.”

Pollnow’s hitting and Epperson’s blocking allowed the Lady Badgers to control the third game most of the way, with solid setting from sophomore Madison Richey and senior Morgan Henry. Liz Wood also got in on the action when it came to setting up Pollnow, who used her superior size efficiently at the net with a number of strikes that the Lady Falcons were unable to defend.

A Lesslie Colbert kill gave the Lady Badgers game point at 24-20, and Pollnow bagged it for Beebe three points later with another kill.

“They didn’t get frustrated and give up,” Belton said. “They didn’t lose all of their confidence. They showed we can still come through adversity and battle back. We have to do the right things the entire time, and not take that break.”

Floyd and Whitmore handled the majority of the hitting duties from the left side for North Pulaski depending on the rotation at the time, while junior Stevie Hughes and Locklin took care of most of the offerings to the middle from Beebe. Emily Long also had a solid night setting, as most of her setups led to Hughes’ six kills. The Lady Falcons also had strong contributions from Casey Mullens and Meagan Chargaulaf.

For Beebe, Richey had eight kills and two aces while Colbert finished with six kills.

With their conference record now at 2-5, the Lady Falcons are a game behind fourth-place CAC, with another matchup between the two teams left to go. As for the Lady Badgers, they will have to win out and have help from other teams’ misfortune in order to reach postseason play.