SPORTS >>SH ladies play well, but lose to Wildcats
By JASON KING
Leader sports writer
The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears closed out their regular season strong in a match at North Little Rock Thursday, but came up short of a win against the Lady Wildcats in four games, 25-21, 21-25, 25-15 and 25-17. The Lady Bears kept themselves in the match during the first two games by relying on quickness and a superior service game, but the Lady ‘Cats used the advantages of depth and size in the final two games to hammer away at the exhausted Lady Bears to claim the match.
Lady Bears coach Lara Allred made no excuses for her team. Allred said lack of execution in the final two games was the biggest deciding factor in the match.
“We started off pretty good,” Allred said. “But our execution of passes in those final games was off. When our passes are off like that, it makes it hard for our setters to do their jobs. Overall I was happy with how we played, we just need better execution offensively.”
The opening game was closely contested with a strong rally from Sylvan Hills in the final moments. North Little Rock built a 16-11 lead, but leading SH hitter Megan Gwatney came to life after a time out to regroup. Gwatney rolled off three kills in five points to pull the Lady Bears to within one. Kills from Farren Wright and Michelle Hedgecock stretched the lead out for NLR once more, and a kill from Krishauna Kindall gave the Lady Wildcats game points.
After taking the win in the opener, the Lady Wildcats scored a tremendous amount of errors in the second game. Sylvan Hills did not allow them to get back in the groove, sending strong serves across the net, some of which were not even returnable.
The Lady Bears trailed in the frame until they were able to tie things at 19-19 before outscoring the Lady Cats 6-2 in the final moments of the game. Allison Williams scored the final two points for the Lady Bears from behind the service line with a pair of aces to clinch the game.
The Lady Bears went up early in game three with more errors from the Lady Wildcats. NLR committed a number a service errors with aggressive hitting behind the line. Many of the attempts were hit too hard, and ended up in the net.
The Lady Wildcats rallied to tie the game 8-8, and took over the lead shortly thereafter. Fatigue set in for Sylvan Hills at that point, as starter Emily Nichols sat out much of game three, and hitters Leah Vest and Courtney Luth took frequent trips in and out of the lineup.
After leading early in game three, Sylvan Hills only scored seven more points once North Little Rock took over the lead. The Lady Wildcats held off SH easily in the final game to take the match 3-1.
Megan Gwatney led the Lady Bears with 10 kills, three blocks and two aces. Sylvan Hills had 17 total team kills, along with six blocks and six aces. North Little Rock’s Tonja Roper, Michelle Hedgecock and Farren Wright had seven kills each, with Roper adding four blocks and a tip. The Lady Wildcats had 37 team kills, 10 blocks and four aces.
Four Lady Bears were chosen for 6A-East All Conference. Jodi Persson, Mindy Crimm, Allison Williams and Megan Gwatney all received All Conference honors for the 2006 season. Gwatney was also chosen as an All-State player for the second consecutive year.
Allred says that despite a 7-11 final record, the team performed as well as could be expected after playing much of the season without head coach Harold Treadway. Treadway has been serving in Iraq since mid-September, and assistant Allred had to step up to fill the void. She says she was satisfied with the team’s performance, but wishes they could have secured a higher playoff seed.
“They gave it their best, I never had to worry about them quitting,” Allred said. “I am happy with their performance, but I guess you could say I have mixed feelings on how the season went for us. If we would have played up to our potential all season, I think we could have been higher than a fourth seed.” As far as Wednesday’s tournament match with Texarkana, she says the team has the capability to win, but simply needs to play a complete match.
“If we can just play with all of our potential, I know we can beat them,” Allred said. “We have a great chance to win, we just need to put it all together.”
The Lady Bears will start state tournament play on Wednesday afternoon at Little Rock Hall against 6A-South Conference No. 5 seed Texarkana in a qualifying match. The winner of that contest will face South No. 1 seed Benton on Thursday.