Friday, August 24, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe rallies for win

Leader sports editor

Beebe fans who began exiting Badger Sports Arena following Greenbrier’s dominant third-game win assuming the Lady Panthers had it wrapped up missed the exciting conclusion, as the Lady Badgers came back to dominate Game 4 and tie the match at two games each, and won a dramatic final game to win the match 3-2 on Thursday.

The Lady Badgers went on a 9-0 run to end the first game with a 25-16 win before Greenbrier took control and won the next two games 20-25 and 19-25, but Beebe kept itself in the match with a near flawless performance in the fourth game to win 25-9.

The Lady Badgers also appeared as if they were going to dominate the final game, rushing out to a big 11-3 advantage, but Greenbrier fought its way back to make it close once again at 14-13, threatening to take the game into extra points. But a kill by Beebe junior Madison Richie finally ended it all with the Lady Badgers taking the deciding game 15-13.

“Basically, I couldn’t be more proud,” Lady Badgers coach Ashley Camp said. “Five games, and to win by two – I had some seniors step up, some sophomores step up. I’m very proud of Natalie Pruitt, Stephanie Pollnow once again, Brittany Gentry stepped up for us setting. The defense was off and on – we’ve got some work to do with that, but it came down to heart, and I’m just real proud of them for that. Mental toughness is what we’ve been focusing on for the last two weeks.”

Beebe senior hitter Stephanie Pollnow led the way with 16 kills and six aces, including three aces during a long stint at the line to end the first game. The Lady Panthers held a 17-16 lead when they hit a side-out to give serve to the Lady Badgers. That put Pollnow at the serving line, and her jump serves wreaked havoc on Greenbrier’s defense.

Kills by senior Brittany Mitchell and Richie put Beebe up 18-16, while Richie struck again later to give the Lady Badgers a 23-16 lead, and Pollnow finished the game off with back-to-back aces.

“Her jump serve – we’ve been working on that in practice,” Camp said. “We’ve been working on consistency and placement. For the most part, it’s pretty aggressive.”

Greenbrier adjusted to start the second game and kept the Lady Badgers off balance offensively for the next two games. The Lady Panthers were outmatched size wise, but compensated with an impressive rotation of constant movement that denied Beebe’s hitting.

“They had a lot of defense,” Camp said. “Coming out here and being able to defend our home court, and yes, they played a great game and their defense was tighter than ours to say the least, but I think our offense pulled us through at the end.”

Momentum was in Greenbrier’s favor to start the fourth game, but that quickly changed as the Lady Badgers rushed out to a 15-3 lead following three straight aces from Pollnow. Sophomore Sarah Etzweiler added a kill and followed that with an ace to make it 18-4, while Greenbrier errors stretched the margin further until senior Sachi Graham clinched the tying game with an ace.

Pollnow’s two early kills along with a pair of aces by Gentry gave Beebe a 4-0 lead in the final game, but the Lady Panthers went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead down to 13-10. Greenbrier scored three more points to pull within one before sophomore Natalie Pruitt assisted Richie to set her up for the winning shot.

“I’m very pleased with the outcome,” Camp said. “We’ve been working over the last month and a half, and just coming out here and performing the way they did and fighting through the down times, that’s what it’s all about.”

Richie led the Lady Badgers in blocks with five while Gentry added four aces.

The Lady Badgers will open 5A East Conference play at home against Nettleton on Tuesday.