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Pearl River Volleyball sweeps Northwest in doubleheader

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River found success in the form of a doubleheader sweep inside Shivers Gymnasium on Friday winning the matches 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-22) and 3-0 (25-11, 25-19, 25-17).

“I am very pleased with our play in both matches today,” head coach Haley Chatham said. “We have to get better at strong and fast starts; finding a rhythm quickly has been a trouble area for us all season. It’s an area we work on, talk about, and are determined to overcome.”

MATCH ONE

The first set proved to be a back-and-forth affair for Pearl River (7-4 overall) and Northwest (4-8) with nine lead changes taking place. The Rangers got off to a hot start taking the first four points of the set, but the Wildcats stormed back to tie the set, 4-4. The next two points went back to Northwest before a Harleigh LaFontaine (Kiln; Hancock) tip and a Diamond Jones (Gonzales, La.; East Ascension) kill tied the set back up, 6-6. The two teams continued to trade blows throughout set one. The Wildcats’ 16-13 lead came after Leah Draine (Mobile, Ala.; Mattie T. Blount) tucked a ball right into the corner for the point. Pearl River finished the set with four straight points to win, 25-22.

Set two followed the theme of the first with neither of the teams building large leads. After a combination block from Draine and Jones, the second set was tied, 11-11. Northwest took its largest lead of the set at 15-13 before the Wildcats rattled off four straight points highlighted by a Leighton Willoughby (Brandon; Northwest Rankin) ace. Pearl River finished set two on 6-4 run to win it 25-21.

Pearl River built an early lead in set three at 3-1. Northwest quickly countered taking the next five points of the set to take the lead over the Wildcats, 6-3. The two teams remained neck and neck late into the match until Pearl River scored four straight points capped off by a Willoughby kill and a Kyleigh Richardson (Fruitdale, Ala.) block to take a 21-17 lead. The Wildcats eventually won set three 25-22 to sweep match one.

MATCH TWO

All the momentum gained in the first match sweep was used by the Wildcats to complete the doubleheader sweep. The first set started similar to match one, but that quickly changed for the Wildcats. Pearl River put the pedal to the metal quickly stretching the lead out to eight points, 14-6. The Rangers cut the lead down to six points at 15-9 before the Wildcats went on a 10-2 run to win the set 25-11.

The big run was highlighted by an Amy Wright (Palm Bay, Fla.; Melbourne Central Catholic) diving dig and a Willoughby kill.

The Wildcats came out of the gate on fire in set two taking the first seven points of the match to build a 7-0 lead. The Rangers fought back to lessen the lead, but the Wildcats were too hot to handle. Pearl River took an 18-10 lead over Northwest capped off by a Tori Havens (Lucedale; George County) kill. The Wildcats went on to take the second set by a score of 25-19. Pearl River never trailed in set two of the contest.

In what proved to be the final set of the match, the Wildcats again started out hot. Pearl River quickly took an 8-3 lead over Northwest after an Avery Beth Durdin (Olive Branch;Lewisburg) kill. The Rangers stormed back to tie the set at 9-9, but the Wildcats never lost the lead after that point. A 5-1 run by the Wildcats gave them a 17-12 lead over the Rangers. Northwest closed the gap to just three points, but Pearl River went go on to win the set 25-17 and sweep the match; and ultimately the doubleheader.

Following the match, Chatham highlighted the play of Jones and Willoughby.

“Diamond and Leighton kept the middle hot for us today.  Leighton gets quicker and stronger every set she plays,” she said. “She has sped up her transitions and attack speed since she joined us in January and has turned herself into an impact player. Diamond continues to be dominant at the net.  She establishes herself early, becoming a threat for the duration of the match.”

UP NEXT

The Wildcats will be back at Shivers Gymnasium on Wednesday to host Coastal Alabama – South. The match will begin at 6 p.m. and will be streamed at PRCCMedia.com/gold.