Pearl River rallies to thrilling win in regular season finale

Published 7:00 am Friday, March 26, 2021

SENATOBIA, Miss. — Pearl River’s volleyball team proved Wednesday that it’s not always how you start but how you finish that matters most. Despite being in a deep hole early in their regular season finale at Northwest, PRCC built an impressive comeback to knock off the Rangers 3-2 (21-25, 18-25, 25-17, 25-12, 15-9). 

“We had to find humility today and sometimes that takes two whole sets,” PRCC coach Haley Chatham said. “Northwest made us work for that one; but I’m thankful to be reminded of our capabilities, even when we are down two just before next week’s play-in match.”

In addition to going 5-0 against the Rangers on the season, Pearl River (13-8 overall) closed out the regular season winning five of its final six competitions. 

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The Wildcats got off to a slow start, dropping the first set 25-21 and second set 25-18.

The third set saw Pearl River and Northwest (6-11) trade blows early. Tied 2-2, PRCC took 5 of 6 to jump ahead 7-3. The run was punctuated by an Avery Beth Durdin (Olive Branch; Lewisburg) ace. 

Each side traded 3-0 runs and battled back and forth until PRCC pulled ahead 13-9 on a kill by Diamond Jones (Gonzales, La.; East Ascension). After NWCC pulled within two, PRCC ripped off three more points. The run was highlighted by a Durdin attack that was blocked out of bounds for a 16-11 lead. The blocking error forced the Rangers to call a timeout.

A kill by Leighton Willoughby (Brandon; Northwest Rankin) off a Durdin quickset pushed PRCC ahead 18-13. The Wildcats later took a 20-14 lead thanks to a combo block from Willoughby and Tori Havens (Lucedale; George County). After taking the next point, PRCC forced NWCC to take a second timeout and regroup. 

The Wildcats took the 24th and 25th points for the 25-17 victory on a Jones kill and a Jones-Durdin block.

The fourth set was all PRCC early on as the Wildcats took a commanding 7-2 lead that consisted of back-to-back kills by Jones and consecutive strikes from Durdin.

Durdin and Willoughby later teamed up for a block to give PRCC a 10-4 lead. After trading points, the Wildcats went on a 6-1 run to force a NWCC timeout leading 18-7.

The Wildcats and Rangers traded shots out of the break but PRCC took the final four points — including the fifth on an attacking error by NWCC to claim the 25-12 victory and force a decisive fifth set.

In the fifth set it was more back-and-forth action early on until PRCC forced a Northwest timeout leading 5-3. A Havens-Willoughby block forced another NWCC timeout with PRCC ahead 9-6.

Out of the break, Leah Draine (Mobile, Ala.; Mattie T. Blount) slammed home a point. Northwest took the next point but PRCC reeled off four straight thanks to a Willoughby swing, Amy Wright (Palm Bay, Fla.; Melbourne Central Catholic) ace and back-to-back kills from Havens.

After the Rangers claimed two points to pull within five, 14-9, Jones put the set on ice finding open court for the final kill of the match.

“I think they all played an important role in responding to an 0-2 start,” Chatham said. “It takes guts to step back out and take three in a row to win the match.”

The Wildcats will make their postseason debut next Wednesday as they participate in the Alabama Community College Conference, which will be hosted at Wallace State-Hanceville. PRCC will face the ACCC’s No. 6 seed 5:30 p.m. The tournament runs until April 3.

The tournament will be streamed for free at