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Pearl River turns in gutty performance against Sun Chiefs

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The Pearl River volleyball squad turned in a strong performance against visiting Coastal Alabama-South on Wednesday but came up just short, falling 3-1 (20-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-23) inside Shivers Gymnasium.

“We looked like a different team today than when we played them a month ago,” PRCC coach Haley Chatham said. “I was happy to see them play with more confidence and a better understanding of their own capabilities. Credit to South, they are a well coached team that makes few errors — mix in the grit they play with, they make it really tough to get balls to the floor.”

Chatham also pointed out a couple areas her team can improve before the next match.

“I think a few less errors and a few better executed hustle plays on our part might have had us in the match longer,” she said. “Those are two areas we continue to focus on and improve.”

One bright spot for PRCC (7-5 overall( was the play of freshman Tori Havens (Lucedale; George County). The outside hitter played a big role in PRCC’s attack.

“We have a couple of outsides whose strengths lie in completely different areas. They get in the rotation based on who we are matching up with,” Chatham said. “Tonight we needed a heavy hitter most and Tori is that player.”

SET 1
The first set was a prime example of PRCC’s perseverance on the evening.

The Wildcats immediately fell behind 16-9. Following a timeout by Chatham, the Wildcats got it in gear and went on a tear, taking five of the next six points to force a CAS (9-2) timeout. The stoppage didn’t slow PRCC as the Wildcats took 9 of the next 10 points. The catalyst during that run was Havens, whose marvelous serving accounted for five straight points. Diamond Jones (Gonzales, La.; East Ascension) book ended Havens’ five points with two kills of her own.

Although CAS called another timeout and took the next two points, Avery Beth Durdin (Olive Branch; Lewisburg) tallied PRCC’s two final points — with the 25th falling just inside the back line.

SET 2
PRCC fell behind 7-1 in Set 2 but immediately began scrapping back into the contest and before long trailed just 10-8 thanks to a Durdin kill. The Sun Chiefs worked their lead back out to 17-11 but PRCC didn’t go away, pulling within two, 21-19, on back-to-back kills from Leighton Willoughby (Brandon; Northwest Rankin). CAS closed out the set with five straight to tie the match 1-1.

SET 3
The third set was a closer back-and-forth affair, with both teams trading points early. PRCC actually held a 7-4 advantage before a CAS run forced PRCC to call timeout trailing 10-8. The Wildcats and Sun Chiefs traded points until back-to-back kills by Durdin tied the game 15-15 and forced a timeout by the visitors.

The Sun Chiefs took the lead and although PRCC hung around, the Wildcats couldn’t overtake the visitors.

SET 4
Similar to Set 2, the Sun Chiefs built a 7-1 lead to open the set. PRCC pulled within one, 8-7, on a scorched serve by Durdin.

Trailing 13-12, PRCC took three straight to jump ahead 15-13. After Hannah Burks (Vancleave) registered a kill and PRCC picked up another point on a block, Jones swung behind her setter and slammed home the ball for PRCC’s 15th point of the set.

The Sun Chiefs took 6 of 9 points out of a timeout to take a 19-18 advantage. Although PRCC and Coastal Alabama-South traded points down the stretch the visitors did just enough to claim the set and match.

NEXT UP
The Wildcats are back on the court Friday with a trip to Northwest for a 2 p.m. start. PRCC then plays Pensacola on Tuesday at 6 p.m. before the penultimate home match March 11 against Itawamba at 5 p.m.

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