Friday, August 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady ’Rabs open new gym

Leader sportswriter

In Thursday’s first official event at Lonoke High School’s new state-of-the-art arena, the Gina Cox Center, the Lady Jackrabbit volleyball team battled class 3A Jessieville in three competitive exhibition games, but lost all three by scores of 25-20, 25-21 and 25-22.

In the first game, Jessieville never led by more than two points until gaining a 20-17 advantage late. Lady Lions’ senior libero Kaitlyn Moody put her team up four points on the next serve with an ace, and from there, Lonoke was outscored 4-3 down the stretch to set the final score of the first Arkansas Activities Association benefit game.

Though the first game was tight until the end, Jessieville led on all but two occasions and never trailed by more than one point. The second game was just as close as the first, but unlike the first game, Lonoke led most of the way – though the lead never surpassed three points.

Sophomore hitter Jarrelyn McCall had two kills early in game two that put the Lady Jackrabbits up 8-5 and 10-8, but after McCall’s second kill of the match, Jessieville scored the next two points to knot the score up at 10-10.

Senior Lindsey Roland put Lonoke back up with a kill from the left side of the net on the next serve and later picked up an ace to put the home team up 13-11. The Lady Lions added another point to their side of the scoreboard on the next possession, but junior hitter Eboni Willis picked up a kill at the center of the net to give Lonoke a 14-12 lead.

Jessieville responded with two more points to tie the score at 14 apiece, but Lonoke regained the lead after Amanda Rhodes’ serve went into the net. After that, Lonoke really had only two highlights the remainder of game two.

McCall picked up the Lady Jackrabbits’ 16th point on a kill and junior Emily Moore served an ace to give Lonoke a two-point lead at 18-16. Lonoke gained its final three-point lead on the next possession, but after that it was all Jessieville.

The Lady Lions outscored the Lady Jackrabbits 9-2 the rest of the way to win 25-21. Jessieville grabbed its first lead since leading 1-0 on an ace by senior outside hitter Gavin Stills that put the visitors up 21-20.

Lonoke scored on the next serve, but junior right setter Kenzee Hughes gave Jessieville a lead it wouldn’t relinquish on a kill from the right side of the net. The game ended on a kill from the same side by junior middle blocker Juliet MacDonald.

The Lady Lions looked as if they might run away with the third and final game. After taking a 1-0 lead, freshman setter Maddie Back served three aces in a row before putting her next serve into the net for Lonoke’s first point.

Jessieville led by as much as 11-6 through the first portion of the game, but the Lady Jackrabbits responded by scoring the next seven points, capped off by another Moore ace that put Lonoke up 13-11. Unfortunately for Lonoke, Jessieville didn’t stay down long.

The two respective teams battled to an 18-18 tie before the Lady Lions broke the game open with back-to-back aces by Stills that gave the visitors a 20-18 lead. Willis scored Lonoke’s final three points. The first came on a kill at the middle of the net that cut Jessieville’s lead to 22-19.

The Lady Lions scored the next two points before a kill by junior Charley Jo Chesney gave Lonoke serving rights. Trailing 24-20, Willis served back-to-back aces before putting the next one into the net to end the benefit exhibition.

Willis led all players with a match-high seven kills. She also had three aces, two assists and three blocks. McCall was second among all players with five kills. She finished with four blocks. Moore led Lonoke with four aces in the match and senior setter Haylee Whitehurst finished with a match-high five digs.

Lonoke will play its first official match on Tuesday at Panther Arena in Cabot.