ABERDEEN – There was no shortage of drama and nail-biting moments when Aberdeen and Amory met on the volleyball court on Thursday night.
The Lady Bulldogs took the first two sets, then saw their county and new division rival Amory roar back to take the next two and force a fifth and decisive set. Amory led early in the fifth set, but Aberdeen snatched the win at the end, taking the match 3-2. The two teams meet up again in division play at Amory on Oct. 1.
“Amory started playing better in the last two sets,” Aberdeen coach Marquis Burnett said. “They stepped it up and started serving it well, and that was beating us. We played them a couple of weeks ago at the classic, so we knew they were coming in with confidence. This was our first game since then, so we were rusty, and I’m glad we came out ready to play. We had two good days of practice, so I told them if they played like they practiced, we would do well.”
The first set was back and forth until near the end when Aberdeen scored 7 of the final 9 points to take the set 25-19.
Amory started out hot in the second set, jumping out to a 4-0 lead before Aberdeen could notch its first set points. The two teams were tied 13 times after that during the set with neither one leading by more than two points. Amory led 24-23 late, but the Lady Bulldogs came back to tie it up at 24-24 and then win the final two points to take the set at 26-24.
The third set was another close one as neither team led by more than three points until late. The Lady Panthers grabbed the lead for good at 19-18 before taking the set 25-22.
The Lady Panthers held more of a commanding lead throughout most of the fourth set leading by as many as ten twice. The Lady Bulldogs fought back to trail by just three a couple of times, but Amory held on for the 25-21 win in the fourth set, forcing the tiebreaker in the fifth set.
“This was definitely a battle, and it’s a whole different meaning for us with the A-Game now since it’s division,” Amory coach Amanda Ragon said. “We have been preaching we’re going at them in this new division. Spirits got low the first couple of games, but people were still making plays and doing things right. We had some girls who really stepped up playing the first year for varsity. Coming off a year where you only win three games, to have the energy and support and enthusiasm for the sport, Amory volleyball is going to be something, and I’m proud to be part of it.”
The Lady Bulldogs jumped out to a 3-0, then a 5-1 lead in the final set before the Lady Panthers roared back to tie it up and then take a 6-5 lead. The two teams were tied six times after that with Amory pushing ahead each time. The Lady Bulldogs tied it at 14-14 late, then took the final two set points to come back for the win with the 16-14 score in the fifth set.
Burnett credited his large senior class with helping pull out the win.
“We have a lot of seniors this year, and we want to make the playoffs,” he said. “Talicia Loggan played well at the net, and Amari (Straughter) is our senior captain. Arianna Prophette has played well coming off that ACL injury, and Destiny Johnson had some big serves. Paige Matthews and Rosie Fort are other seniors who played well. Jamia Johnson is a junior who stepped up and played well, and Jada Moore, another junior, had some big points.”
Ragon praised both her newcomers and veterans, as the Lady Panthers lost a handful of starters from last season.
“It’s a whole new crew. I’m super proud of our seniors and their leadership,” she said. “Taylor Hindman and Maddie Williams are our two outside hitters, and Kaleigh Morgan is the right side hitter. To keep them in the game with the rhythm and leadership was awesome. Kami Wilf is our setter, and she’s really holding us together and doesn’t have a sub. Kat Cooke was key at middle blocker with solid serves in the most crucial points of the game when we were head to head. Jillian Cox is in her first year to play, and it’s natural athleticism with her making some plays. Sasha Burdine, Jayda Sims and Caroline Nestor did great subbing in on our back line.”