South Champions

BENTON – Talk about domination. The Benton Lady Panther volleyball team clinched the 7A/6A South conference with a 3-0 sweep of second place Lake Hamilton Lady Wolves on Tuesday night at Benton Arena. Benton won 25-20, 25-22 and cruised in the third set with a 25-14 win, and has swept every conference match this season with one to go against El Dorado at home on Senior Night Thursday.
“This is the first year we’ve gone undefeated and sweeping everyone,” Benton Coach Brandy Chumley said. “It’s never been done. This team is a really good team and that’s a testament to them.”
The first two sets didn’t come as easily as the Lady Panthers (17-3, 11-0 South) may have wanted as Benton was down 5-4 early in the first game. Senior Xandra Lock would get a kill assisted by junior setter Braxton Chumley to start a 3-0 run, capped by junior Ashlie Dintleman’s kill from junior Taylor Lindberg.
Lake Hamilton (9-2 South) errors gave the Lady Panthers an 11-6 lead before the Lady Wolves started their comeback. With Benton leading 13-8, Lake Hamilton would take advantage of the Lady Panthers’ lack of coverage in the middle for a 6-0 run and 14-13 lead before senior Jennie Hastings picked up a kill on an overset, and senior Stacy Cooper’s ace gave Benton a 16-14 lead.
After Lake Hamilton tied it at 16-apiece, Cooper had a kill assisted by Chumley during a 4-0 run in which the Lady Wolves looked tentative, giving the Lady Panthers a 20-16 lead. It would be back and forth after that before senior Allison Reynolds, the Homecoming Queen, got a set from Lindberg and spiked it down to nail down the first game.
Lake Hamilton would lead 6-3 in the second set before Benton would score six straight points during a 10-1 run in which Dintleman had two kills and Lindberg had two aces and three assists for a 13-7 Lady Panther lead. But, bad passing and lack of focus from Benton led to an 8-1 Lake Hamilton run and 15-14 Wolves’ lead before a Benton timeout. The Lady Panthers responded with seven straight points after the timeout helped by Lake Hamilton errors for a 21-15 lead and Benton would hang on for the three-point win.
“We still have to work on our defense,” Coach Chumley said. “I guess I just have to start getting meaner. That’s what I tell them, every time the ball hits the floor, it’s a snake (bleacher run around the gym). We still had too many.”
The Lady Panthers would lead 10-2 and 20-7 after a Chumley kill in the third set, and Reynolds and Lock would end the match with consecutive kills to give Benton 11 straight conference sweeps.
Chumley had 22 assists in the match, adding three kills and an ace, Lindberg had 11 aces, six kills and two aces, Reynolds had nine kills, Lock had eight kills, Dintleman seven, Hastings six and Cooper had two kills and an ace.
“We still have little things we have to work on, but we’ll get a good opportunity next week to work on that,” Chumley said.
After El Dorado on Senior Night Thursday, the Lady Panthers will take on North Little Rock on Tuesday and Mount St. Mary, who defeated Benton earlier in the season, on Thursday, both away games.
“They’re playing really good right now, so it will be a really good game for us,” Coach Chumley said of North Little Rock. “They’re very athletic. When we played them earlier in the year, they hadn’t got it together, but someone was saying the other day they’re coming together. That’s good for us. We need a really good game.”