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Emotion carries Starkville volleyball team to victory

 

Adam Minichino

 

CALEDONIA -- A little emotion can go a long way. 

 

Inserted at the proper time in a match, that energy can help make for a very long evening or it can erase any surge of momentum. 

 

The Starkville High School volleyball team picked the right time Tuesday night to deliver a shock to the system. 

 

Sparked by an impromptu players-only scream-fest in front of coach Lauren Love, the Yellow Jackets rallied to score the final five points in game four to clinch the game and the match against Caledonia, 3-1. 

 

Game scores were 25-19, 25-12, 18-25, 25-20. 

 

"Our girls got together in the huddle and I didn''t even approach the huddle," Love said. "They wanted to win at that point. They got together and they took it up to another level -- intensity, emotion, focus wise. That carried on to the court. That is what we needed." 

 

Faced with the prospect of losing a 19-14 lead and tied at 20, the Yellow Jackets (8-3) capitalized on a hitting error and an ace by Priyanka Parajuli to take a 22-20 lead that forced the Lady Confederates (6-4) to take a timeout. 

 

While Caledonia tried to regroup to force a decisive game five to 15 points, Starkville took the opportunity to scream. The Yellow Jackets whooped it up in the huddle, much to the delight of Love, who stood at the outer edge of the huddle, smiled, and then sat back down while the players pumped each other up for the rest of the timeout. 

 

The spark took hold as Rebecca Myles had a kill, the Yellow Jackets scored another point off a bad pass, and Parajuli closed the match with an ace. 

 

Love said the team has worked in practice on focus. She said the Yellow Jackets'' practices are difficult to prepare them for anything an opponent will throw at them in a match. They showed for long stretches Tuesday that they are working toward that goal because they didn''t make many unforced errors in winning the first two games.  

 

Love said her team plays its best when it is focused and organized on the court. She said it was nice to see the spark of intensity to help put the team over the top. 

 

"You can''t coach emotion," Love said. "We love to see the girls with goose bumps, adrenaline, cheering, and really meaning it. I haven''t seen a self-led cheer with the girls going on at that level of emotion and intensity. That is awesome from a coach''s perspective."  

 

Caledonia coach Samantha Brooks lamented her team''s inconsistency and lackluster serving. The Lady Confederates had five missed serves in game one and four more in game two. They were able to overcome five more misses in game three thanks to better passing, which allowed setter Marlana Dolan to get the offense going. Ashley Dodson and Blaire Ruth sparked the victory with four and two kills, respectively, in the game. Each player had a match-high eight on the evening. 

 

But Caledonia couldn''t maintain the momentum. Setter Wheeler Richardson''s dump, or quick pass over the net, fell to give the Lady Yellow Jackets a 14-12 lead. Three rotations later, she served three aces in a row to help push the margin to 18-13. It expanded to 19-14 before the Lady Confederates rallied thanks to two more kills by Dodson. Those were the final points Caledonia scored. 

 

Wheeler Richardson paced Starkville with seven aces. She also had three kills. McKay Richardson led the way with five kills (three aces), while Margaret Allison added four kills. Parajuli had four aces. 

 

Brooks said her team''s inability to put its serving practice to good use and the fact the team played without Ashley Langford, the libero, or designated defensive player, added to the frustration. 

 

"One minute we jell and it seems like we''re unstoppable. The same game it is like we haven''t played in a while, or we''re not conditioned and we''re not in the game," Brooks said.  

 

Ruth epitomized Caledonia''s evening. The outside hitter struggled early to find her rhythm, but when she did her entire game gained confidence, and that energy rubbed off on her teammates. 

 

Brooks said the Lady Confederates are still learning how to avoid the lulls in matches and to play at a high level in every game. 

 

"You can see it all over their faces (when they get down)," Brooks said. "It is really hard when you''re down to pull yourselves out of that and get that momentum back, especially when the other team is celebrating and is being loud. That is why it is so important to start strong and to get up and to stay up and to keep that advantage."  

 

Starkville will play at West Lowndes at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, while Caledonia will play at Aberdeen at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. All of the teams will play Saturday at the Tupelo VolleyFest.

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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