Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears win opener

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills rebounded from a slow start to beat Magnolia 3-1 in Tuesday’s first round of the class 5A state volleyball tournament at Alma. The win is the first volleyball playoff victory for the Lady Bears in school history.

“Some parents came up to me late this season and said they could tell we’d really made some strides,” said Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway. “I said we haven’t really because we still haven’t beaten the big two in our conference. But they pointed out that we did take a game from each of them. And we’ve beaten everyone else. So now I think I agree. We are making strides and we’re moving this program in the right direction.”

The Lady Panthers, the No. 2 seed out of the South, won the first game 25-19, but the Lady Bears, the No. 3 seed from the Central, won the next three by scores of 25-19, 25-16 and 25-17.

“The majority of the girls went to the state tournament last year,” Treadway said. “This is a big game, and you really don’t know how to approach it. You don’t want to put so much pressure on them that they’re nervous.

“Just the fact that they walk into Alma, which has a fantastic gym, they were nervous. After the first game, we got on a nice little roll and kind of took control.”

Even though the Lady Bears lost the first game, junior Karley Walton picked up a momentum-changing block against Magnolia’s top hitter, which Treadway said set the tone for the rest of the match.

“She stuffed it right back in her face,” Treadway said. “And I really feel like even though we lost the first game, that set the tone because after that, she (Magnolia’s top hitter) probably didn’t get but three or four decent hits.”

On the very next play, Walton picked up a kill that furthered the momentum to Sylvan Hills’ side of the court.

After Walton’s kill, juniors Abi Cantrell and Jamia Willis helped the Lady Bears take over the match by making solid passes to hitters Brooke Rainey, Jordie Flippo and Walton the rest of the way.

“Our setters were able to get the ball to our hitters,” Treadway said. “It was just a good team effort. Everybody pulled together after that.”

The win advances the Lady Bears to the quarterfinal round where they’ll play Paragould, the top seed from the East, in a 4 p.m. match today at Alma High School. The Lady Rams beat the tournament host 3-1 Tuesday by scores of 25-16, 25-23, 23-25 and 25-17.

Today’s match will be another tough test for the Lady Bears, but Treadway is pleased with the way his team is playing right now.

In Sylvan Hills’ last four matches, the Lady Bears have won 12 of their 15 games played, which Treadway believes is enough to show that his team is peaking at the right time.

“I’m real pleased,” Treadway said. “This team, we kind of started out up and down. We were playing well at times; then sometimes we didn’t play so well. But about two weeks ago we played North Pulaski, and we beat them in three (games). We beat Jacksonville in three (games).

“We beat St. Joseph out of Conway, which is the No. 1 seed in their bracket (class 3A), we beat them 3-2, and then we won today. I really feel like we’re playing well. You want to peak at the state tournament. You want your last game to be your best game, win or lose, and I think that we’re playing really well now.”