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Poplarville volleyball ends a successful first season

Head Coach Jonathan Ray knew growing pains would be a part of the volleyball program’s inaugural season.

However, the team pushed through the adversity, and ended the season with a record of 9-7.

The final game for the Hornets was against the Greene County Wildcats Tuesday evening in front of a boisterous home crowd.

It would be the last opportunity for the squad’s three seniors, Aislynn Andrews, Hannah Blanchard and Harley Blanchard, to take the court. Ray said the trio were the cornerstones of the fledgling program.

“They were tremendous to the program to help get it started. To just to have one year to be able to go out and compete is tough on the seniors. It’s not fair, but it is what it is,” Ray said.

The team played well against Greene County, who sealed their playoff spot with Tuesday’s win.

The first two sets ended with scores of 25-15 and 15-16 in favor of the Wildcats, but the final set was a back and forth affair that needed extra points to be decided.

Greene County eventually prevailed, winning the set 34-32, and locking in their playoff spot with the 3-0 win.

It wasn’t the win the Hornets were looking for, but Ray said the game was a positive for the first year team heading into the offseason.

“We can use that moving forward. That’s a playoff team and we went toe to toe with them, and now we can use that as motivation heading into next year,” Ray said.

Poplarville’s inaugural season of volleyball saw the squad defeat multiple long time programs.

Ray said those watershed moments help show the team’s potential.

“I was pleased. We’re really close to being a top notch program, and that’s motivating,” Ray said.

There were some letdowns at certain points for Ray, but he said he was proud of the team’s performance in its first season.

Ray said multiple coaches approached him during the season to say the program looked farther along than they had been during their inaugural season.

“Having a winning season for the first season of a program is huge. It’s a compliment to the girls, and their ability to work and learn the game,” Ray said.

There’s always going to be room for improvement no matter how many years a program has been in existence.

However, Ray said the team is in a good spot, and hopeful for the future.

“I’m a coach because I’m competitive. You always want to achieve more, but I like where we are,” Ray said.

Now the athletes are heading into volleyball’s offseason, but multiple girls on the team are members of other teams for the Hornets.

Ray said the team’s tryouts will likely be in May, and after the roster is established the squad will participate in some summer games to keep improving.