Saturday, October 10, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers sweep up Pulaski Academy

Leader sports editor

There were moments of uncertainty in games two and three, but in both cases, the Beebe volleyball team pulled out the wins and kept intact its perfect season.

The Lady Badgers have still not lost a single set in 5A-Central Conference play after beating Pulaski Academy 25-11 and 25-21 twice Tuesday at Badger Sports Arena.

Beebe and PA shared the league title last year, and the Lady Bruins needed to win Tuesday’s match to have a shot this year, but Beebe all but assured itself an outright conference championship, even though there are two games remaining on the schedule. PA will have to win out and Beebe will have to lose both of its games next week against Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski in order for the Lady Bruins to earn a piece of this year’s crown.

Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski are also almost certainly going to be the other two playoff teams from the Central, so Beebe coach Ashley Camp is not declaring a championship yet.

“It’s there in front of us, but we still have to play North Pulaski and Sylvan Hills, so we’re not talking about it,” said Camp. “But we knew this was a big one.”

Camp’s team came out like it was a big one. The Lady Badgers scored the match’s first four points, including two aces by senior Sarah Clark. Senior Jerra Malone added two kills and the Lady Bruins called a quick timeout.

The margin in game one stayed between four and six points until Paige Smith took serve at 15-10. Abby Smith got a huge kill to start Paige Smith’s service game. After an unforced error, Abby Smith got another kill and Paige Smith aced the Lady Bruins to make it 19-10 and force another PA timeout.

Paige Smith added three more points after the timeout before the Lady Bruins finally broke serve at 22-11, but it was the last point they would score in the opening game.

Beebe quickly broke back, and Abby Smith served out the game, acing the Lady Bruins with a topspin jump-serve for point 25.

Game two went back and forth for a long while, with neither team keeping serve for more than two points until Beebe got just enough of a run near the midway point to hold on for the win. Leading 14-13, Malone served four-consecutive points for a five-point lead.

The Lady Bruins pulled to within two at 18-17, and the two teams traded side outs until 22-21 when Beebe went on a three-point run to seal game two. Abby Smith again ended the game with a huge kill to the middle of the Bruin defense that caromed hard off the defender’s hands and out of bounds.

Sensing that PA was down, the Lady Badgers jumped out to a big lead in game three. Shalen Devore’s serve took Beebe’s lead from 7-3 to 13-3 with the help of two big kills by Malone, who had missed several hits in game two.

Beebe led 19-10 when Paige Smith took serve, but after scoring one point, the Lady Bruins began a furious comeback.

Camp called her first timeout of the match when PA pulled to within 20-16, but the Lady Bruins added two more points before serving long to make the score 21-18. The two teams again began to trade side outs until, on libero Kayla Green’s serve, Clark fooled PA by shooting an apparent set over the net and into a hole in the Bruin defense for match point.

After the match, Camp was pleased with her team’s overall performance, but thought it should have been a little less exciting after taking the big lead in game three.

“We came out ready,” Camp said. “The girls were, really, chomping at the bit for this one. I told them from the very beginning, set the tone, set the tone, set the tone. And we did that. But we’ve done the back and forth all year, especially with them.

“We’ll start off and then we’ll have a lull. Urgency is the key for us sometimes. I was preaching do not get comfortable. You do not have a big enough lead. I think we had a couple lose focus a little bit and that hurts the whole team, but we managed to get it back together. And the crowd like we had tonight helps that.”

Malone had a match-high 11 kills, including six in game three. Abby Smith had nine kills and three blocks for Beebe’s point total. Gracie Rymel had four kills for the Lady Badgers.

Green finished with 23 digs while Paige Smith had 17 and a match-high 10 points on serve.

The Lady Badgers remain perfect on the season in full match play at 15-0. Their only losses this year were in two-set tournament matches to North Little Rock, Conway and Bryant. They are 9-0 in league play and will travel to Conway on Saturday for a nonconference match.