Saturday, October 11, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe girls topple PA, set for title

Leader sports editor

Nearly every facet of adversity had to be overcome, and was overcome by the Beebe volleyball team on Tuesday, as it beat Pulaski Academy on the road and put itself in position for the school’s first-ever volleyball conference championship.

The Lady Badgers won in four, avenging a five-set home loss to the Lady Bruins in early September in which Beebe was up 2-0 and had match point in game three before crumbling and losing 3-2.

Scores in Tuesday’s match were 23-25, 26-24, 25-20 and 25-21, and things looked bleak when the Lady Bruins stormed out to a 9-2 lead that eventually grew to its largest at 23-14. Beebe rallied from that deficit to tie the score on a service break and eight-straight service points by Paige Smith, who served up an ace for the tying point.

But PA broke serve and then aced to win the opening game, its fourth-straight over Beebe going back to the first meeting.

It didn’t discourage the Lady Badgers.

“They’ve worked so hard and they got here tonight and fought just as hard,” said Beebe coach Ashley Camp, who was almost speechless after the win. “They did, they fought back and just persevered. They just found a way to win no matter the circumstance. It’s very exciting.”

Beebe indeed won its three games in very different fashion. Game two was a mirror image of game one, in which the Lady Badgers jumped out to a huge lead only to falter late and allow the home team to close the gap entirely.

Beebe’s Jerra Malone took serve with the Lady Badgers leading 12-7, and served up three aces in six serves to make it 18-7 and force a timeout. But from that point the home team charged back, eventually tying the game at 24 despite two Camp timeouts to try and stop the rally.

PA’s Taylor Powell got a forceful kill that landed just outside the front line of the court for the tie, but Beebe answered in kind.

To break serve, setter Sarah Clark set Malone on the back row, but the distance from the net made little difference. Malone hammered a kill into a hole in the PA defense to give Beebe a 25-24 lead and a chance to serve out the game and tie the match.

The Lady Bruins handled the serve and set up another hit by Powell, PA’s 6-foot-2 middle blocker, but Gracie Rymel and Abby Smith were there for the block. Clark then set Smith, who got the game-winning kill.

Game three went back and forth until a five-point rally put the Lady Badgers up 12-7. They maintained a lead between three and five points up to 18-13 before the Lady Bruins scored four-straight to make it a one-point game.

Beebe then went on another five-point run in which Malone got four kills for a 23-17 lead.

PA rallied to 23-20 before Beebe broke serve and Smith again got the game-winning kill.

After taking a 2-1 lead, Beebe appeared to lose focus early in game four. The Lady Bruins went on a 5-0 run for a 12-7 lead, but didn’t have to do much work for it. Four of those points were off unforced errors by the Lady Badgers.

Camp called timeout and her team regrouped, scoring the next three points out of the break. But PA answered right back with three straight for a 15-10 lead and forced another Beebe timeout.

Out of that timeout, Beebe junior Shalen Devore made what was perhaps the play of the game when she craftily tipped a second hit into an empty space in the Bruin defense to stop the home team’s run.

The two teams traded points for a short while. PA led 19-15 before Beebe closed the game and match with a 9-2 run. Back-to-back kills by Smith drew Beebe to within 19-18.

The Lady Bruins appeared to score the next point when Powell got another kill, but was called for touching the net, giving Beebe the point and the tie at 19.

Senior Tara Plante then aced her next serve and Smith got another kill for a 21-19 Beebe lead. PA scored next, but Beebe broke right back with a back-row kill from an unlikely source.

Destiny Nunez, who is a service and back-row specialist, got a good look and what in many cases would have been a free ball for PA. But instead of bumping the third shot back over, she went for the kill and got it, bouncing the ball off the outstretched hands of a retreating PA defender near the back line and off the backboard of the basketball goal.

An unforced error gave PA its final point of the night and made the score 22-21. From there, it was all Abby Smith, a sophomore hitter who had her coming out party in the match.

She got a kill to break serve, then served back-to-back aces to clinch the match.

Smith finished with 18 kills to lead all players. Malone, the team’s leading hitter, finished with 12. Powell led PA with 10 kills while Isabelle Gadberry finished with eight.

On Thursday Beebe hammered Mills 25-7, 25-13 and 25-4 to improve to 9-1 in conference play.