POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River came up just short in its in-state rivalry match against Itawamba on Thursday night inside Shivers Gymnasium, dropping the contest 3-1 (27-25, 25-27, 25-20, 25-18).
"We played good volleyball tonight — both teams did," Pearl River coach Haley Chatham said. "I loved the fight we put up but this time the fight on the other side of the net won out."
The Wildcats (8-7 overall) came out in the first two sets on the front foot. PRCC jumped out 7-4 early in Set 1 and extended the lead to 12-7, forcing an ICC (8-2) timeout. PRCC extended its lead to 14-9 on a Diamond Jones (Gonzales, La.; East Ascension) picked corner. Although both teams made mini-runs, PRCC still led late in the match, 19-14.
The Indians mounted a late rally, however, scoring five straight and 7 of 8 to earn their first lead 21-20. PRCC responded with a four-point run of its own but the Indians claimed four of the final five points to secure the 27-25 win.
PRCC started similarly in Set 2. Thanks to points on three of four from Jones on a run of nine straight by PRCC, the Wildcats built a 17-10 lead. Once again ICC chipped away, eventually sliding ahead 24-23. Not to be out-done, the Wildcats responded, tying the match on a slam from Leighton Willoughby (Brandon; Northwest Rankin). Following a Jones kill and block to go ahead 26-25, Willoughby finished off the set with a scorched serve for the 27-25 win.
The two teams traded points for much of the third set, with Avery Beth Durdin (Olive Branch; Lewisburg) scoring on a second chance after a wayward ICC block to tie it up 16-16. ICC rallied from there, taking nine of the final 13 points for the 25-20 win.
Roles reversed in the fourth set, with ICC building a 7-2 lead. Leah Draine (Mobile, Ala.; Mattie T. Blount), Durdin, Jones and Willoughby combined for eight of PRCC's next nine points as it clawed back to take a 12-11 advantage. ICC responded with a 6-0 run and PRCC was never able to get back within two of the lead, falling 25-18.
The Wildcats will have a quick turnaround as they host Judson College at 5 p.m. Friday for sophomore day. The match will be livestreamed at PRCCMedia.com/gold.