WALESKA, Ga. – Bryan Volleyball had an action-packed weekend but came up short in a pair of Appalachian Athletic Conference contests, which began in West Point, Ga. at Point University and ended in Waleska, Ga. on the campus of Reinhardt University. The Lions were anticipating a tough challenge in both matches, especially considering Point is currently ranked 2nd in the AAC’s South Division standings at 16-7 overall and 12-1 in the conference, trailing only 1st-place Reinhardt (currently receiving votes in the latest NAIA Coaches’ Top-25 Poll) who owns a 21-2 mark overall and perfect 14-0 record in AAC play.
On Friday, the Point Skyhawks soared past the Lions, recording only the third sweep that Bryan has been a victim of this season. Bryan allowed Point early rallies in the first and second sets and struggled to make up the difference, giving way to 25-15 and 25-14 decisions in favor of the Skyhawks before the Lions unfortunately dropped a tight third set to the home team 25-19. In set one, the score was leveled 6-6, but Point charged ahead for a 10-6 advantage and never surrendered the lead. The difference grew to double-digits at 19-9, as the Skyhawks closed the frame 25-15. Set two saw the start evened up at 2-2, but a 5-0 run propelled Point in front for an edge they maintained for the rest of the set. Bryan lowered the margin to four points at 15-11, but Point took the roar out of the Lions with a game-deciding 8-0 rally to gain a 23-11 lead. A pair of errors gave way to a 25-14 win for the Skyhawks. The Lions dug their claws in the third set, battling for seven ties in a closely played frame. The score was tied 3-3, and back-to-back kills by Bryan’s Emalie Hicks and Gigi Ford helped the Lions to their largest and only lead of the set. Even though the Skyhawks countered and went ahead 8-5, Bryan kept the score close with a 9-8 count, 12-11, and finally tied back up at 13-13. A ball-handling error by the Lions and an ace by the Skyhawks tacked on two points for Point, but Bryan took advantage of a Point mishap and capitalized on Rebecca Camacho’s ace to tie it 15-15. For the final time, the Skyhawks snagged an advantage and held onto it. The Lions were knocking on the door at 19-17, but Point locked the door with a 6-2 run to cap the set 25-19 and sweep Bryan 3-0.
Ford led the Lions with eight kills, followed by Anna Owens with seven, Camacho with five, Hicks with four, Anna Cain with two, and Paige Randolph with one. Assisting on a team-high 13 of those kills was Jaleigh Rogan. Ford served up three of the team’s five total aces. Rheagan Kean’s 18 digs led the team and was trailed by Ford’s eight. It was a block party for the Point, as they totaled 10 compared to Bryan’s lone solo rejection tallied by Ford.
Every conference team has had problems with Reinhardt this season, and it was no different for Bryan on Saturday when the Eagles ripped through the Lions for a 25-9 first set that set the tone for the rest of the match. In the opening frame, the score was an even 4-4 until Reinhardt erupted for 12 straight points, producing an overwhelming 16-4 lead. The Eagles prevented the Lions from reaching 10, as Reinhardt won the set 25-9.
Set two was much more respectable, as Bryan got back on track and proved their ability to compete with the AAC’s best. The Lions even led briefly at 9-8 before turning the lead back over to the Eagles at 11-10. A kill by Camacho tied the set 13-13, and a kill by Randolph made it 14-14, but it was the closest Bryan could come to Reinhardt. The Eagles went in front 16-14 before cruising ahead 23-16 thanks to a 4-0 run late. Reinhardt was hoping for a sweep of Bryan after capturing set number two 25-19.
The Lions had different plans for the Eagles, displaying their abilities in an unbelievably close set three that saw both sides fight for 18 total tied points. Bryan trailed Reinhardt 3-6, 7-10, and then 8-12. Instead of rolling over, the Lions exploded for a 5-0 run sparked by a kill from Ford. Randolph turned in a kill, Rogan aced the Eagles, and two consecutive attack errors launched the Lions in the lead 13-12. The score was continuously knotted up at 14’s, 15’s, and 17’s until Bryan took advantage of a Reinhardt error, a kill by MyKayla Hampton, and another attack error for a 20-17 lead. Bryan’s rally was short-lived though, as the Eagles came back with a 4-0 run to regain an advantage at 21-20. Hicks and Hampton combined for a key block in slowing Reinhardt’s momentum. The Eagles went in the lead 22-21 with a kill, but an error brought the Lions even at 22’s. With the score deadlocked 23-23, the corner was turned by Bryan in their only winning set of the match when two fatal errors by Reinhardt left the Lions victorious 25-23.
The energy by Bryan was unable to continue in the fourth set, as Reinhardt turned an even 7-7 score into a six-point edge at 13-7. The gap was never closed by the Lions with the Eagles marching ahead to a 25-14 final frame and the 3-1 defeat of Bryan.
Ford was one shy of double-digit kills, recording a team-high nine that was followed by Owens with six and Hicks with four. Rogan amassed a team-best 11 assists while Kean led all players with 28 digs. Both Rogan and Ford chipped in 10 digs, respectively. Bryan outblocked Reinhardt 10-8, guided by Camacho’s one solo and four assisted rejections and Hampton’s five block assists.
Bryan owns a 10-2 record on their homecourt in Summers Gymnasium this year and looks to take full advantage of their impressive play at home with six of their final seven regular-season matches taking place in Summers. The AAC’s North Division leader in Union College (Ky.) awaits the Lions at home this Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. The Bulldogs are 17-14 overall and spotless in the AAC at 14-0.