CLINTON- The Pontotoc Lady Warriors capped off the best season in program history on Saturday by taking on Vancleave for the Class 4A state volleyball championship at Clinton High School.
The Lady Bulldogs (28-6) grabbed momentum early and won 3-0 (25-12, 25-11, 25-16) to capture their fourth consecutive state title. Pontotoc finished the year with a 17-5 record, including a Division 2-4A title, 4A North Half title and state championship appearance- all firsts for the program.
Pontotoc was within 4-2 after a kill from Audrey Hamill in the opening set before Vancleave scored 15 of the next 20 points behind strong play at the net from Brooke Ward and Eve Mixon, among others. They went on win 25-12.
Good serves from Scout Waldrop led to Pontotoc scoring the first two points of the second set. De'Aisha Browner blocked a shot at the net for a point, and a long rally eventually led to a Vancleave unforced error that put the Lady Warriors ahead 4-1. However, the Lady Bulldogs went on another big run of 11-0 before De'Aisha Browner had a kill to cut the deficit to 12-5. Hamill and Samya Brooks had kills to keep the deficit at 10 a few minutes later, but Vancleave continued to pull away and won 25-11.
The third set was by far the closest. The Lady Warriors scored three consecutive points, two with Hamill on serve, to cut the Vancleave lead to 7-6. After an effective serve by Mollie Rackley got the Lady Bulldogs off balance, Hamill scored on a nicely placed shot to make it 10-8. Vancleave responded with a big kill from Ward, the first of five consecutive points. Good play from Scout Waldrop, Kensley Nowicki and Mollie Rackley, among others, kept Pontotoc in it, as they were within six late in the set at 19-13, but ultimately Vancleave closed out the match 25-16.
"We've so enjoyed this year and worked so hard, and to make it to the championship game in a season that we didn't know was going to happen (due to COVID-19) is incredible," said Pontotoc head coach Annie McGregor. "We had a group of kids that just loved each other and played for each other. I am so proud of what they've accomplished.
"We were able to bring our entire team to Clinton, even our freshmen got a taste of what it was like to be a part of it. So I'm hoping we will be eager to get back."
Pontotoc 3, Corinth 1-North Half
The Lady Warriors knocked off Corinth 3-1 (25-10, 27-25, 23-25, 25-19) at home in the state semifinals last Tuesday night to win the 4A North Half Championship and punch their ticket to their first state title game.
“It’s been a fun ride, and we have such a competitive team and no matter if they are playing or not everyone is contributing," said coach McGregor. "I am thankful for everyone who has believed in volleyball for the past ten years. I looked in the stands and saw our former players, and to have this atmosphere and to see them out there tonight was awesome.”
Pontotoc won the first set with ease, but Corinth finally realized they were playing in the North half final in the second set. Corinth start Katie Nakagawa went to work, but the Lady Warriors were ready for it.
“Our plan was to shut down Katie Nakagawa at the net, and we got some big blocks out of De’Aisha (Browner), Samya (Brooks), Sadie (Stegall) and Audrey (Hamill) tonight,” said coach McGregor. “I was proud of how we responded once Corinth started playing well.”
De’Aisha Browner helped Pontotoc control the net all night and finished with 7 kills and 11 blocks to lead the Lady Warriors. Audrey Hamill finished with 12 kills. Kensley Nowicki finished with 10 kills and 2 blocks, and Samya Brooks finished with 3 blocks and 2 kills as well. Pontotoc finished with 46 kills as a team and 17 blocks.
Corinth won the third set, but Pontotoc responded well in the fourth set, with Browner picking up 5 kills and two blocks late in the set to finish off Corinth.