Monday, September 09, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> NP sweeps three from West Helena

Leader sportswriter

North Pulaski picked up its first victory of the season in the 5A Central Conference opener as the Lady Falcons routed Helena-West Helena Central 3-0 at the Falcons Nest on Thursday.

The Lady Falcons improved to 1-1 overall by dominating at the net and taking advantage of the Lady Cougars’ lack of offense. HWHC did not attempt a single kill until the third game.

The first game ended in a 25-5 blowout for North Pulaski, though the Lady Cougars did make some lineup adjustments for the second game and played it closer with a 25-14 result. The competitive edge wore off somewhat for the Lady Falcons in the final game, though they still managed to pull out a 25-19 victory.

“It’s about building confidence,” Lady Falcons coach Ben Belton said. “We made some mistakes. We had too many kids watching the game and not playing the game. I thought Kiarra Evans played well from start to finish. She played aggressive at the net.

“There were too many net serves. I think we had eight net serves for the night. We’re not going to play that game.”

Hitter Kiarra Evans led the way offensively for the Lady Falcons with eight aces, and had a consistent showing at the net. Breezy Russell matched Evans’ numbers at the serve line with eight aces, and added a pair of kills. Setter Casey Mullen had three assists in the first game, but took matters into her own hands as the contest played out and eventually led the team in kills with six.

Depth was strongly in the favor of North Pulaski, as 11 Lady Falcons ended up on the stat sheet in some way, while the Lady Cougars were primarily a one-person show with hitter Gabby Haskins, who recorded the only stats for her team with three kills, a block and two aces.

The Lady Falcons set the ball well in the first game, but struggled with passing later in the match. For Belton, improvement throughout the remainder of the week is critical with a match against Pulaski Academy lined up for Tuesday.

“That’s just ball control – a lack of focus,” Belton said. “I’m disappointed in a couple of the kids who were lost on the court. I’m not happy about that, and that will be addressed. It seemed like the focus left after the first set, and passing got worse, control got worse. Hopefully we can work on that and get better before Tuesday, because if we don’t, it’s not going to be good for us.”

North Pulaski never lost confidence, even as the Lady Cougars threatened to make a match of it in the third game. HWHC kept it close through the first half of the game until three-straight aces by Evans pushed the Lady Falcons’ lead to 19-12. The Lady Cougars made one more push in the late going and cut the score to 23-19 before a net ball and out ended it.

“A good team doesn’t ever play to the other team,” Belton said. “You play to yourself, and I tell them that all the time. I don’t care what is on the other side of the net; I don’t coach that team. We’re worried about what’s on our side. Regardless of who you’re playing, you’ve got to play your best 100 percent of the time.

“If you do that and get beat, then you just get beat. If you do that and win, you win, but against a team that is not as good as you are, you should look more dominating than that.”

Raigen Thomas added four kills for the Lady Falcons while libero Ashlyn Van Horn had three aces.