Saturday, September 19, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Falcons win rivalry match

Leader sports editor

Beating Sylvan Hills is always a highlight for North Pulaski’s volleyball team, but Tuesday’s 3-1 Lady Falcon win over the rival Lady Bears was a mild upset, and carried special significance for a NPHS squad with only nine players and no junior varsity.

Six players from last year’s NP team transferred to Sylvan Hills over the summer, including three projected starters. Making the home win for the remaining Falcons even sweeter.

“We knew they’d play tonight,” said North Pulaski coach Ben Belton. “We haven’t been playing well lately, and we were awful on Monday up at Clinton. We just haven’t played. But we knew they’d play tonight. They were excited about this one.”

Scores in the match were 25-19, 26-24, 18-25 and 25-23.

Game point in the tightly-contested second and final sets were both controversial, and both went North Pulaski’s way. Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway let the officials know his opinion on the calls, but wouldn’t blame them for the loss.

“I’m not going to talk about that because it never should’ve come to that,” said Treadway. “We didn’t play well. If we’d have done the things we were supposed to do, and played like we’re capable of playing, we’re not in that position.

“I don’t know. The potential is there. We’ve got good players. We just haven’ come together yet for some reason. We’ll keep working at it.”

After controlling most of the action throughout the first game, North Pulaski found itself trailing 24-22 after a serve sailed wide right. Sylvan Hills took serve for match point, but North Pulaski played the serve nicely, and Lady Falcon middle blocker Kiarra Evans got a kill to make it 24-23 Sylvan Hills. Payton Mullen, NP’s best server who had not had a great service game up to that point, served back-to-back aces to give the Lady Falcons a 25-24 lead.

Game point featured a nice rally that ended when what appeared to be a block by Evans was called a four ball when the Lady Bears dug it out to keep the ball alive. The official ruled the ball was hit into the net and not blocked.

Momentum in game three went back and forth, and stood at 19-18 Sylvan Hills when the Lady Bears scored six-straight points to stay in the match. Sylvan Hills sophomore Grace Turner served the last five points, starting with an unforced error by NP when the Lady Falcons let a pass drop without setting it. SHHS senior Ashley Beach then got back-to-back kills for a 23-18 lead. Turner served an ace to set up game point, and senior Taylor Yeoman hit the game-ending kill.

North Pulaski appeared to be on its way to an easy game four when it jumped out to a 17-10 lead, largely on the strength of Lindsey Burris’ service game. But the Lady Bears chipped away, pulling to within 21-20 on a service ace by Beach. The next serve went into the net, but NP committed an unforced error to give it back to Sylvan Hills at 22-21. After a long rally, Sylvan Hills’ Neigha Thomas pushed a ball into a gap in the NP defense along the right sideline to tie the game at 22-22.

Mullen got a kill to give NP the lead and the serve. On Burris’ next serve, Thomas tried the same play again, but this time pushed it out of bounds to give the Lady Falcons their first match point.

But another NP unforced error made it 24-23. On the next serve, Treadway wanted a lift called on the serve receive but didn’t get it. Mullen then ended the match with a game-winning kill.

Evans led all players with 13 kills and six blocks. North Pulaski enters next Thursday’s match against Beebe with a chance to force a tie for first place in the 5A-Central Conference. The Lady Falcons are 4-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play.