Poplarville volleyball playing for playoff spot

Published 4:13 pm Thursday, October 3, 2019

The season is beginning to wind down, and each game becomes more important for the Hornets’ volleyball team as they look to clinch a playoff berth.

There are four teams competing for only two spots, and Poplarville is right in the thick of things, even though it’s the program’s first year.

The squad needed a win against Forrest County Agricultural Oct. 1 to keep pace with the other teams in the district.

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In the end, the Hornets gave a dominant performance as they emerged victorious against the Aggies.

Poplarville was in control for the majority of the game, never allowing the Aggies to score more than 15 points in a set.

During the first and second set the Hornets were in control ending with scores of 25-11 and 25-12.

Forrest County tried to make a comeback in the third set, but the Hornets persevered.

They won the final set 25-15 to add another game to the win column, and keep their standing in the playoff race.

Head Coach Jonathan Ray said both Cassidy Cartwright and Hannah Blanchard had big games for the Hornets.

“Both their serving and their front line play was good,” Ray said.

There’s a learning curve for the athletes, but Ray said the team is learning how to deal with the pressure.

“It’s a different type of pressure than what we’re used to, but we have to continue playing well,” Ray said.

The team’s next opponent is Stone County, and the last match between the two squads required five sets before the Tomcats squeezed out a victory in Poplarville’s gym.

This time around, the Hornets will be traveling, and there will be a lot on the line when the two teams face off on Oct. 8.

There are only three games left in the regular season, and Ray said there are a variety of scenarios in which the Hornets can make the playoffs.

“We have to win two out of the next three. Three wins would put us in,” Ray said.

A big reason for the team’s success this first season has been the relationships between the athletes.

Team chemistry has been strong all year for the Hornets, and Ray said the trend would continue as the team heads into these pressure filled games.

“They’re all close, and they support each other. They all have the same excitement, and the same goal,” Ray said. 

The team has a week in between matches, and Ray plans on using the practice time to figure out what went wrong in the previous matchup with Stone County.

“We’re going to look back at where we fell short against Stone the first game, and continue to get better playing,” Ray said.

The team is going into the make or break portion of the season, and so far the squad has stood firm.

Even with the pressure on the athletes’ shoulders, Ray said his team would still perform at its best.

“I expect them to play well. I don’t think travel will be an issue, and I wonder if we play better on the road because there’s less distraction,” Ray said. The game will start at 6 p.m.