Tuesday, August 29, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke gets sweep of Sylvan Hills girls

Leader sports editor

Lonoke got its first outright win of the season in bracket play of the Spikefest tournament in Little Rock, and then hammered Sylvan Hills in a best-of-five nonconference match at home on Monday.

The Lady Jackrabbits prevailed 25-19 in a close first game on Monday, and then cruised to wins of 25-11 and 25-14 to sweep the Lady Bears at the Gina Cox Center.

Sylvan Hills was the team out of the gate quickest at the start of Monday’s match. The Lady Bears jumped out to a 9-4 lead in game one, but that changed when Lonoke’s Gracie Mason took serve after a break that made it 9-5. She served up four-straight points, including three-consecutive aces, the last two on high, slow serves that landed in the middle of Sylvan Hills’ confused defense.

Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway called timeout, and his team broke serve to maintain its lead. But the Lady Bears served long to tie the game at 10, and Lonoke’s Kayla Shelton served up four-straight points, three on unforced SH errors, to a 14-10 lead that Lonoke never relinquished.

Sylvan Hills pulled to within 20-18 when Cory Tessman broke Lonoke’s serve with a big kill, and then served anace. Lonoke broke back, and Shelton served up three more points before the Lady Bears broke to make it 24-18. Lonoke won the set on another long serve by the Lady Bears.

Lonoke took command early in game one. On Maddie Pool’s serve, Lonoke got three-consecutive hard kills, one each from Kennedy White, Shelton and Keiunna Walker to make the score 6-1. Sylvan Hills came storming back to tie the game at 9-9, but the Lady Bears collapsed from that point, scoring just twice more as the Lady Jackrabbits closed the game on a 16-2 run.

Shelton served four in a row before Sylvan Hills’ Anna Snyder got a back row kill to make it 14-10. She then served long, giving the serve back to the home team.

Lindsey McFadden served to 20 before Sylvan Hills broke, but Graemme Withrow served wide and the Lady Bears didn’t score again until game three.

Lonoke’s Emily Armstrong served out the set with one ace. White ended it with a huge cross-court kill from the right side. It was a foreshadowing of game three, when White began to dominate.

The 6-foot outside hitter hammered half of her match-high 10 kills in the final game.

Shelton finished with 15 points on serve, equaling Sylvan Hills’ team total.

Snyder, Sylvan Hills’ libero, led the team in kills with four, all from the back row.

Walker and Shelton had eight kills apiece for Lonoke while Armstrong and Sydney Hallum had five each.

“I’ve got a lot of hitters and it’s sometimes hard to get everybody those opportunities,” said Lonoke coach Laura Park. “But it’s a good problem to have.”

Armstrong also had nine points on serve, and the setter contributed 21 assists to the team’s 36 kills. Hallum had eight assists and Mason six. Mason also had eight points on serve, and led the team with five aces.

Junior libero Trinity Abbott finished with 11 digs.

Despite the dominant win, Park thought her team played better over the weekend than it did on Monday, despite going 1-3-1 at Spikefest.

“We tend to play to the level of our competition sometimes,” Park said. “I thought we played much better at Spikefest even though the scores may not look like it. We were playing some elite competition and we didn’t have everyone there. But I felt like we competed really well.”

At Spikefest, Lonoke opened pool play against Valley, and lost handily by scores of 25-9 and 25-10. Valley View is the defending Spikefest champion, the defending Class 5A state champion, and also went on to win this year’s Spikefest, dropping just one set to Fort Smith Northside the entire tournament.

The Lady Jackrabbits split with Morrilton, losing game one 25-22 before winning game two 25-21. They closed pool play with a 25-14, 25-13 loss to Cabot, and moved into the Bronze bracket of tournament play.

Once there, Lonoke beat Vilonia 2-1 in three exciting games, two of which needed extra points to decide. Lonoke won game one 28-26 and lost game two 25-21. Game three to 15 ended with a 16-14 Lonoke win.

In the second round of bracket play, Lonoke was knocked out of the tournament by Class 6A Sheridan in another close match, 25-22 and 26-24.

Lonoke (2-4-1) will travel to Lisa Academy on Thursday.