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Picayune volleyball kept improving during second season

The final two games for the Picayune volleyball team may not have ended with wins, but the scores showed just how much growth has taken place in the program’s first two seasons.

The first of the final two games took place on Oct. 10 against Pass Christian.

Picayune took the Pirates to four sets, losing the first two 25-10 and 25-20. The Maroon Tide came back and won the third with a score of 25-21, but Pass Christian closed it out with a win in the fourth set 25-19.

In a previous match up, the Pirates won in three sets. Head Coach Courtney Dickens said the team’s ability to take these established programs to four or five sets is a good sign.

Playoffs weren’t a possibility for the Maroon Tide because the team had been eliminated from contention previously, but that didn’t stop the players from giving their all to finish the season.

“Since we’re not able to play for the opportunity to win a state title, we’re just playing for next year. A lot of the kids have bought into that, and they’re wanting to get better,” Dickens said.

Staying on the grind and working to improve has been a message Dickens has preached to her athletes all year, and the players have seen the team’s improvement.

Hard work doesn’t always translate to wins in sports, but Dickens said the improvement of her team from its first season to this past season is staggering.

“It’s not always about the scoreboard. Taking these teams to more than three sets, deep into the set, it’s a huge difference from last year. They have gotten better,” Dickens said.

The team’s final game was against Harrison Central on Oct. 15, and once again the Maroon Tide took their opponent to four sets.

Picayune got a lead early and won the first set 25-22 before losing the second and third sets with respective scores of 25-10 and 25-6. Dickens said the players’ body language suffered when the team lost those two sets, so she found a way to get the team motivated.

“I got everybody together and said, ‘You know girls, this is the seniors’ last game tonight. We may not win, but they want to go out playing well and playing together,’” Dickens said. 

The team responded to Dickens’ speech, and the set was so close that extra points were needed before Harrison Central pulled out the win with a score of 27-25.

Obviously the team would’ve preferred to end the season with a win, but Dickens said the team’s performance was a positive no matter what the final score was.

“We were able to end on a good note on the last set. They played hard all night, and next year we’ll have to focus on being more consistent,” Dickens said.

Inexperience has led to the inconsistency from the players, but that’s what Dickens expected. There isn’t a local volleyball league for the athletes to participate in, and Dickens said the team’s inaugural season was the first time the majority of the athletes played volleyball.

“To be able to compete with these teams with kids who have played since they were 8-years-old, I couldn’t be more proud,” Dickens said.

Dickens said she’s looking into hosting a camp for young athletes who may be interested in the sport.

Knowing the game comes from playing it, and Dickens said if she’d started working with her squad when they were younger the team would be a winning machine.

“I feel like if I had this group of girls since the time they had been in 7th grade, there is no doubt in my mind I think they’d be the best team in the south,” Dickens said.

Now the team is heading into the offseason, and Dickens said she’s looking forward to continuing to work with her athletes before tryouts take place towards the end of the school year.