Pearl River volleyball dominates in-state rival
Published 11:18 am Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Emotions were at an all-time high Monday evening as the Pearl River volleyball team took on in-state rival Northwest in front of a raucous crowd inside Shivers Gymnasium. The Wildcats used the crowd to their advantage, earning a dominant sweep of the Rangers, 3-0 (25-10, 25-22, 25-22).
“Our girls served well tonight. Northwest didn’t get a ton of good passes off our serves,” head coach Haley Chatham said. “It allowed us to keep them out of position. They’re very, very good in the middle, so anytime that you can keep a team from getting perfect passes off your serves, you stop them from running the middle. We had guts tonight. That was a lot of heart and determination.”
Freshman Madi King (Leakesville; Greene County) was thrust into action early in the second set after an injury to a Pearl River middle blocker, and she did nothing but deliver.
“Madi was awesome, just like she always is,” Chatham said. “She’s a cerebral, thoughtful player. She’s the go-to when I need to put someone anywhere. I know that she’s not going to make mistakes, and I know she will do what she’s been coached to do. That’s what she did tonight, and it was awesome. I am super proud of her.”
Pearl River (14-12 overall; 4-1 Region 23) was firing on all cylinders to begin the night against Northwest (21-16; 3-1). After the teams traded points until a 3-3 tie, Pearl River went on a brief three-point run to move ahead 6-3.
The Rangers earned a point, but the Wildcats promptly embarked on one of their most impressive runs of the season with 10 consecutive points. Natalie Bartholomew (Brandon) sent a kill flying off the hands of an NWCC player and down on the court for a point. On the following rally, Delaney Sisson (Auburn, Ala.) went low to the floor to keep a ball from hitting the court and managed to send it back across the net and in front of the Northwest middle blockers for a point. The points forced an NWCC timeout. Nothing changed out of the break as PRCC rattled off three more points to burn another Ranger timeout. Pearl River added three more points with the help of a pair of Abbie Franks (Ocean Springs) blocks to extend the lead to 15-4.
NWCC battled back to cut its deficit to 18-8 before Lillie Franks (Ocean Springs) sent a fireball down the right line and down for an impressive kill, 19-8.
Pearl River eventually put the set to bed thanks to two massive kills from Bartholomew and a pair of double-hit infractions by the Rangers, 25-10.
Although the Rangers pulled ahead 7-5 to begin the second set, Pearl River was quick to answer. The Wildcats tallied seven straight points to take a 12-7 advantage. During the run, Sammie Smith (Biloxi; D’Iberville) sent a scorching kill onto the court, and Abbie Franks earned back-to-back aces.
Pearl River’s lead grew to 14-11 off the back of two incredible plays by Smith. The first saw her absolutely unleash on a kill attempt, sending it down on the court before the NWCC player could even react. Moments later, Smith did it all. A ball was destined to go out of bounds and be a point for the Rangers, but Smith wouldn’t allow it. She sprinted straight back, dove and got the ball back into play. She quickly recovered, got back into formation and finished the play with a monster kill.
Late in set one, Bartholomew sent a kill off a Ranger block attempt and off the antenna for a point. King wrapped up the set with a kill, 25-22.
A pair of Jolee Gibson (Brandon) aces combined with Smith pushing a ball over for a kill helped the Wildcats gain an early 6-1 advantage in the third set.
The Rangers battled back to square things up at 7-7, but the Wildcats stormed back ahead 13-8 when Bartholomew sent a kill through a block attempt and onto the court. With the score set at 15-13, Smith earned a big-time block to extend the advantage to 16-13.
The Rangers again responded, fighting back to take a brief 17-16 lead. Smith promptly gave the Wildcats back the lead a few plays later with an ace, and King blocked a kill attempt to make it 19-17.
Smith and King struck again for the 24th and 25th points as Smith fired a kill attempt off a block that bounced off the net, off the player and down. King ended the set on the very next rally, slamming a kill, 25-22.
Pearl River hits the road on Thursday to take on Gadsden State. First serve is set for 5 p.m.
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