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Poplarville volleyball to use classic as learning experience

The Poplarville High School volleyball squad ran through drill after drill during one of the team’s last practices before the Poplarville Classic that takes place Saturday. In preparation, Head Coach Jonathan Ray tasked his athletes with working on their serves, and volley after volley were sent over the net as athletes on both sides of the court served to each other.

The squad then worked on transition drills where Ray would have a ball served over the net, and then six girls would transition from defense to offense.

A key point Ray emphasized was the usage of sets to provide hitters with good opportunities to spike the ball. Back and forth the athletes ran, moving from one formation to the next under Ray’s watch. Then it was time for six on six, with two full squads going at it in a semi-competitive environment.

The necessity for the unit to get these repetitions means that practices are intense, and full of lessons to be learned by the players.

“Right now we’re trying to understand alignments and strategies,” Ray said. “We’re learning the game because it’s brand new to all of us, and that’s been the biggest obstacle so far.”

That learning curve has been steep for the players in the program, but Ray said he’s been impressed with the improvement the players have shown over the past couple of weeks.

“We’re going to have to progress at the pace they can progress at,” Ray said,

“We’ve progressed a lot in two weeks, there’s been leaps and bounds of improvement.”

However, Ray said that there would always be rough spots the team will have to work through, and that’s one of the reasons why the classic will be so beneficial for the team. This first set of games will serve as a benchmark for Ray and the team, and it will allow them to better understand what they’ll need to work on for the rest of the season.

“We want to win the games, and we’re always going to play to win,” Ray said. “But really, classics are to see where you are going into the season, and to figure out areas we need to work on for improvement.”

The games will be played at Pearl River Community College’s gym, an environment Ray said should be fun for the athletes.

“I expect a lot of fan support, there’s a lot of excitement and they’ll feed off the energy,” Ray said.

“I expect them to play better because of that. PRCC is comfortable for us so I think we’ll still have home court advantage.”

The team will play against Purvis at 10 a.m., and then against Perry Central at 12 p.m. Ray and the squad hopes to come out of the classic with two wins, and to do that Ray said each member of the team would have to focus on what they do best.

“We’re going to play to our strengths, our starters are really consistent serving, which is a big plus for us,” Ray said. “We’re athletic, and just need to learn each other, the classic is going to be about learning how we compete.”

Both of the opponents Poplarville will face are new programs as well, and Ray said the unfamiliarity of the teams will lead to more learning opportunities for the athletes.

“It’s kind of an unknown, you don’t know where the other teams are,” Ray said. “Tomorrow is really going to be learning where everybody is at.”