LITTLE ROCK – The Benton Lady Panthers ended their regular season defeating the Mount Saint Mary Belles Thursday night in Little Rock. Benton won its last four matches and 14 of the its past 15 matches with the Lady Panthers only loss coming to Conway in the Lady Cat Invitational two weeks ago. Benton swept every match in the 7A/6A South conference finishing 12-0 in league play and 20-3 overall.
Benton exacted a bit of revenge on the Belles as MSM beat the Lady Panthers in Spikefest early in the season after Benton won in a benefit game to start the year. On Thursday, Benton won 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-17).
“They beat us in the second round of the tournament at Spikefest,” Benton Coach Brandy Chumley said. “We didn’t play very well, at all, and they played pretty solid. Their defense was really good and I think we were worn out.
“We played well [Thursday] night though. The first game was a little rocky. We had a lot of passing errors. We were right there in the game with that many passing errors, so that’s a good sign.
We took a couple (errors) off each game. I thought our defense was much better [Thursday] night after that first game. “
The Lady Panthers played without middle hitter, junior Ashlie Dintleman, as she was suffering from a back injury not deemed too serious.
“We had to make some adjustments in the middle,” Chumley said. “She’s having some back issues. I think she will be (ready for State Tournament on Tuesday). I think it’s the muscle so she just needs to rest it. Nakiya Baxter came in and played real well. Braxton [Chumley], Taylor [Lindberg] and Xan[dra Lock] each played a rotation in the middle, and they all played really well.”
Chumley led the Lady Panthers with 23 assists and four blocks for kills, and added nine kills. Lindberg had 20 assists, four assisted blocks and three kills, Homecoming Queen Allison Reynolds had 15 kills and four assisted blocks, and Lock had nine kills.
Senior Jennie Hastings had seven kills, Baxter had four kills, an ace and an assisted block, and senior Stacy Cooper had four aces.
The Lady Panthers will start State Tournament play on Tuesday at noon at Jonesboro High School. First up for the South No. 1 seed Panthers will be East No. 8 seed Searcy Lady Lions. Benton should win the match and will be matched up with the winner of E4 Mountain Home and S5 Sheridan, which Benton swept twice during the season.
“I don’t know anything about Mountain Home,” Coach Chumley said. “I know they’re going to be scrappy, and if we can get past them, [Benton will likely play E2 Marion]. We split with (Marion) in the Conway tournament. I think they’re going to move some hitters up, so they may be better offensively. If we can play good defense, I think we’ll be able to put the ball down. We beat them by one more point than they did.”
Should Benton make the state championship game, which will be played in Russellville on Saturday, Nov. 2, Chumley said it’s likely the Lady Panthers will face E1Jonesboro, S2 Siloam Springs or E3 Russellville.
“We saw [Jonesboro] at the Conway tournament,” Chumley said. “They’re solid. I think any team is beatable. They’re really good. Russellville, Jonesboro, they’re really solid. If we get a chance to play them, we’ll have to pick our defense up.”