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Picayune volleyball bows out of playoffs after loss to South Jones

Picayune’s Lady Maroon Tide volleyball team competed in its first ever playoff game last Saturday and ended up losing in a hard fought three set match (22-25, 17-25, 23-25).

Head Coach Courtney Dickens said the result against South Jones wasn’t what the team wanted, but the performance was positive.

“Honestly I was very pleased. I thought we could’ve won, but it just didn’t happen that way. I thought they played really hard and they competed,” Dickens said.

A point of emphasis for Dickens all year was improving her athletes’ mental stamina and toughness.

The players needed to be able to stay positive and fight through adversity.

Dickens said Saturday night she saw the mental strength the team had been working on all season.

“We’ve been struggling with mental toughness and the mental side of it, and I thought that was really good during the game. Honestly I think they handled themselves really well,” Dickens said.

The playoff appearance was the first in program history, so moving forward the returning players will be able to draw on that experience.

Six seniors will have to be replaced next season, but the younger athletes who saw time on the court this year will prove invaluable as they begin taking starting positions.

“It’s definitely something we can build off of. We’re going to lose the core of our team, but I’m very glad some of those eighth graders got to play varsity this year because I think that’ll help us going into next year. We’re going to miss them next year, but that’s part of sports so somebody will have to step up and fill their place,” Dickens said.

The overall youth of the team played a big role this season as players were shifted in and out of the line up because of injuries or COVID-19 protocols.

This led to several athletes getting significant playing time at the varsity level, which Dickens hopes will be a foundation moving into next year.

“Going into the playoffs the third year sets the tone for the younger girls and that motivates you to be back next year. If you learn what it feels like to win, it’s a feeling that is addicting and makes you never want to lose again,” Dickens said.

COVID-19 presented a variety of unprecedented challenges for the Lady Maroon Tide this season.

Not only were new routines adopted, but old procedures had to be adapted or thrown away entirely to adhere to pandemic guidelines.

This proved to be an obstacle for Picayune, but one that was overcome and will continue to positively impact athletes going forward.

“They had to play through a lot of adversity. I think it forced some people to step up and play out of their comfort zone. As a whole I think it made us better and will make us better for the future,” Dickens said.

What the offseason will hold is unknown as Dickens now shifts to coaching softball as the head coach of that program.

Dickens hopes some of her athletes take up club volleyball, but without an actual class period to use, the team may not meet again until next summer.