(PONTOTOC)- The Pontotoc Lady Warriors came out swinging on Sept. 7, and looked dominant in the first two sets (25-20, 25-23), but perennial powerhouse Caledonia found their rhythm and bested the home team in the final three sets, 25-15, 25-17, 15-12.
This marked the first division 2-4A loss for the Lady Warriors, (they previously defeated Mooreville on Aug. 24).
The Lady Warriors wasted no time thumping a kill shot and setting the tone in the opening set. The senior trio swing of utility player Scout Waldrop, to right-side hitter Aurdey Hamill, to middle-blocker Samya Brooks for a kill said the Women of the Tribe had rubbed on their war paint.
Junior Mollie Rackley skied and with her signature, long, behind-the-ear reach-back, slapped a kill. Senior libero Caroline Howard served a pair of aces, and with an ace and a sneaky put-over by Waldrop, Pontotoc opened a 10-8 lead.
Junior Sadie Stegall bumped a service return to Waldrop, who set Ava Robbins for a kill.
Caledonia’s Rylee Jernigan turned in a solid performance, adding a pair of kill shots early in the first frame. Her teammate Lauren Brown added a spike from the outside hitter position to pull the Lady Cavaliers closer at 14-11.
Stegall made a nifty save, bumping to Hamill, who set Brooks for a spike. Alayna Ball, who also turned in a solid performance at the right-side hitter position, blocked a shot at the net for a point. Stegall helped slam the door on the first set, using her height to sky for a pair of thunderous kills.
Ball hit the hardwood for a save that led a Lady Warrior point to open the second set. She followed that with a strong kill, and a pair of aces from Howard opened a 7-2 lead for Pontotoc.
Caledonia’s Jalynn Hall hammered down a kill for the Lady Cavs, followed by one from Jernigan.
Maggie Kimble got in on the action for the Lady Warriors, adding a kill shot, and another by Robbins gave Pontotoc 23, at which point Caledonia tied the match. Rackley found a patch of open real estate in the Lady Cavs defense and threaded in a shot. Brooks partially blocked a Lady Cav shot at the net, and Rackley spun it over on the deflection for the set winner.
Caledonia seemed to snap out a prolonged lethargy in the third set. They tore open a quick 5-1 lead, anchored by strong play from Brown, Hall, and Jernigan.
Sadie Stegall stemmed the tide of the Lady Cavs’ opening onslaught by nailing a nifty, side-spinning, fisted kill just inside the back line. A pair of low, line-drive aces from Rackley, and trio swing of Hamill, to Howard, to Ball for a kill shot brought the Women of the Tribe within three, at 10-7. Pontotoc worked a service return all the way across court, with Robbins at the setter position, bumping to Hamill, who set left-side hitter Stegall for a strong kill.
Caledonia’s Karigan Elliott served a pair of aces, and Stegall countered with a fierce ace, but scores by Elliott and Emma McKee sealed the set for Caledonia.
The Lady Warriors opened set four with a trio swing of Alayna Ball, to Hamill, to Rackley for a kill, and after a stuff at the net from Brooks, and an ace from Howard, it looked as though they might rebound to take the match. Caledonia repeatedly surrendered points on failed serves, and Pontotoc’s Ann Christian played well at the libero position, spelling Howard, but Eliott continued to anchor the Lady Cavs’ attack and led them to victory in the fourth and fifth sets.
Pontotoc defeats Itawamba AHS
The Lady Warriors bounced back last Thursday with a resounding, three-set road win over division opponent Itawamaba AHS.
Right-side hitter Alayna Ball led Pontotoc with 10 kills against the opposing tribe.
The Lady Warriors took the first set 25-11.
Senior libero Caroline Howard served an early ace in set two to give the Lady Warriors a nickel on the scoreboard. Lady Indian Kylee King nailed a solid stuff on a Pontotoc shot to even the score at 6-all.
Ava Robbins turned in a strong performance at the net for the Lady Warriors, nailing a series of kills that propelled Pontotoc to a 13-10 lead.
AHS senior Kaitlyn Cagle made a nifty save that led to a point for the Lady Indians. A thumping kill point by Ball and an ace from Mollie Rackley pushed Pontotoc back in front 16-13.
Audrey Hamill set Sadie Stegall for a kill, Robbins notched another block, then the trio of Stegall, to Scout Waldrop, to Robbins for a top-spin winner put the Lady Warriors in position for the kill stroke. Waldrop executed a pair of her patented backward sets, one to Samya Brooks who thundered a kill from the right-side hitter position, and the final nail to Hamill for the 25-19 set win.
No Lady Warrior match would be complete without defensive captain Caroline Howard skidding across the hardwood, and on que the senior hit the deck for a nifty save that led to a kill point from fellow MHSAA All-Star Audrey Hamill.
Howard bumped to Waldrop, who set Brooks, and the senior cleverly bumped over a looping winner, the defense expecting her to sky for a hard spike.
AHS senior Chloe McLain snuck in an ace, but Pontotoc was on a roll.
Ball seemed to stay in flight the entire third set, her right arm spinning like a windmill and hammering down kill shots. Stegall again utilized her long reach, throwing down a kill from the left side, and following with a pair of aces. Scores from Stegall, Robbins and Ball sealed the win, 25-11.
After the IAHS match, Pontotoc Coach Annie McGregor was well pleased with her girls.
"I was really proud of the way we played against Itawamba," said McGregors. "After losing in five set to Caledonia, I felt like we had a bit of a chip on our shoulders. I'm hoping that motivates us to finish the season strong. The best part of Thursday night's game (IAHS) was that it was a team effort. Caroline held down the fort in the back row, and that allowed our setters and hitters to take action. Alayna Ball, Samya Brooks, and Sadie Stegall had big nights on the net. We really focused our energy and played strong througout the night. We hope to keep this going."
Pontotoc improved to 3-1 in division 2-4A. Next up, the Lady Warriors will host division rival Shannon on Sept. 21, and non-division opponent Kossuth on Sept. 23.
Pontotoc will then have two, scheduled division matches remaining, at Caledonia on Sept. 28, and hosting IAHS on Oct. 4.