VB Pleasant Grove at Prairiland

Prairiland senior setter Madison Clark (4) rises up to put down a kill during the Lady Patriots’ match against Pleasant Grove.

After an impressive outing in Monday’s volleyball scrimmage day at North Lamar High School, the Prairiland Lady Patriots volleyball team didn’t miss a beat in its home opener against Pleasant Grove. In a meeting of district champions last year, the Class 3A Lady Patriots got going early and outclassed the Class 4A Lady Hawks in straight sets. Prairiland won handily by a final score of 25-14, 25-18 and 25-15.

“I think what impressed me the most is that we stayed pretty level-headed the entire game,” Prairiland head volleyball coach Emily Vanderburg said. “Even when they (Pleasant Grove) did push us and try to get us down, we stayed pretty level-headed and consistent throughout the match, which was good.”

The contest was close early in the first set with Prairiland holding an 11-10 lead. The Lady Patriots scored 4 of the next 6 points to stretch the advantage to 15-12. After that, the momentum shifted with a big kill from the middle.

“We’ve worked on being quicker with our offense, and I think that really helped us,” Lady Patriots junior middle blocker T.J. Folse said. “We were able to catch them (Pleasant Grove) off guard, and it kept the momentum going. We’d get a kill, we’d get really excited and I think it all really helped us get the win.”

With her team up by 3 points, Folse received the feed from senior setter Baylor Sessums at the middle of the net, and the junior middle blocker knew exactly what to do with the ball. Folse put it away emphatically, which got the crowd and team excited, while also extending the advantage to 16-12. From the 11-10 point of the match fueled by the big kill, Prairiland closed the set on a 14-4 scoring run. Junior outside hitter Reese Parris was a force early and late as she closed the set out with a big kill, followed by a block.

The script was similar in the second set as Prairiland got a big kill from one of its power hitters to begin creating separation midway through the set. This time, it was Parris whose mighty swing boosted Prairiland’s lead to 14-10. From there, Sessums put down an emphatic kill off the assist from Madison Clark and Pleasant Grove followed with an error to make it a 16-11 Prairiland lead.

The Lady Hawks managed to cut the deficit to 19-18, but a serve out of bounds gave Prairiland a 2-point cushion. After Pleasant Grove cut the deficit to 1 point, the Lady Patriots finished the set on a 6-0 run. Prairiland cruised with little resistance to take the third and final set. Sophomore middle blocker Abi Farmer put an exclamation point on the Lady Patriots’ victory, hammering home back-to-back kills to close it out.

Folse was an offensive spark plug with a team-high 12 kills, while Parris added 8 kills. Clark did it all as she dished out 17 assists to go with 14 digs — both team highs. Sessums played well with 13 assists, 6 kills and 9 digs, while Trynity Chapman was a defensive anchor with 10 digs. Audrey Gray added 4 kills and 8 digs, while Brook Tuck finished with 6 digs, 2 assists and 1 kill. Farmer recorded 2 kills.

The familiarity and continuity is not only advantageous for the Lady Pats, but also is a big strength, especially this early in the season.

“You can tell that they’ve played together for two years, and that’s going to be an advantage for us,” Vanderburg said. “We’re able to start a little more cohesively, where other teams may have holes to fill and will take more time to really get going. Our deal is we can’t be satisfied with where we’re at, but instead to keep getting better and better.”

The Lady Patriots will take the court again in the Chisum Tournament. Prairiland, Chisum and Rivercrest all are set to compete in pool play Thursday morning with times and opponents to be announced.

Geoff Heppes is sports editor for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6967 or at geoff.heppes@theparisnews.com.

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