The No. 3-ranked Prairiland Lady Patriots volleyball team of Class 3A traveled to Paris High School to play against the Class 4A Lady Wildcats. Paris, who has only lost twice this season, faced a strong test against the Lady Patriots, who had not dropped a set the entire season coming into the match.
The game went back and forth as two of Lamar County’s strongest teams battled it out. After splitting the first two sets, the Lady Patriots stormed back to win a wild, high-scoring third set and held on to claim the fourth set and the victory. Prairiland went on to defeat Paris by a final score of 25-22, 18-25, 33-31 and 25-21.
“I think we came out hard and defensively we had our good and bad moments,” Paris head volleyball coach Ashley Green said. “I like how we put in the effort to go for the balls, stay with it and that’s the whole point of it because defense wins games. Without defense, we can’t run our offense and can’t be effective overall.”
Prairiland continuously had to battle from behind at several different points in the match, including a 7-1 deficit to open the first set. However, Baylor Sessums, Brook Tuck, T.J. Folse and Reese Parris keyed a 17-3 scoring run to give Prairiland an 18-10 lead. Paris, though, called timeout and responded with a 10-1 run to take a 20-19 lead. After that, Madison Clark fed Sessums for a kill to tie it up, then Audrey Gray’s ace on the next point gave Prairiland the lead for good, which the team eventually won 25-22.
Paris jumped out to an early lead in the second set, but did not relinquish it this time. Trailing by as many as six points, Prairiland cut the deficit to 18-16 after kills from Sessums and Parris, but a big kill from sophomore setter Lilly Lewis followed by back-to-back aces from dynamic sophomore Macey McAmis pushed the lead to 21-16, and eventually fueled Paris to a 25-18 win in the second set, the first set Prairiland lost all season to this point.
The third set was one to remember. Paris again took the early advantage, leading 19-13 and forcing a Prairiland timeout. Parris put down two kills out of the timeout to trim the deficit to four points, but McAmis hammered home a kill to make it 20-15. On the next point came a big momentum swing. What looked like a sure kill from Paris was dug up by the hustling Clark, whose effort eventually led to the point for her team. Her effort was contagious and proved to be a catalyst for the rest of the match.
“I think they finally realized that they were just going to have to go and fight through it,” Prairiland head volleyball coach Emily Vanderburg said. “I preach all the time that hustle plays can make or break a game, and we had a couple of hustle plays in there that really stuck out, made a difference, get us through that point deficit and eventually overcome.”
Prairiland faced a 23-19 deficit, but a 5-0 run gave the visitors a 24-23 lead, forcing a Paris timeout. McAmis came back and put down a kill to tie it, then a Lady Patriot error made it 25-24 in favor of the home team. This set was far from over, though.
From that point, the two teams battled it out exchanging points 14 times in a sequence featuring great defense, calculated offense and long volleys, and Paris had the edge the whole way. However, facing a 31-30 deficit, Parris got the set from Sessums and hammered a kill to tie it at 31-all. After that, Gray got the feed from Sessums and put the ball away to give Prairiland a 32-31 lead, and a Paris hit out of bounds on the next point ended the long set in favor of Prairiland.
“I think in that third set, we battled hard,” Green said. “I loved that they were going for balls, not letting balls drop to the court, sticking with it, finding open shots and picking on the weaker players on the other side. That was all key and things didn’t go the way we wanted to, but having them compete and battle — that’s what I want for them. I want them to live for that competition and to want it just as bad as everyone else does.”
Winning that third set was a tall task, even for a team ranked as high as Prairiland as Paris, its defense and tenacity made it anything but easy.
“It took literally everything we had,” Sessums said. “Coach Vanderburg told us that in order to win this game, everyone on the court is going to have to go 110 percent with no balls hitting the ground. I feel like that third set, once we gained all that ground on them even with them still ahead of us, it gave us the momentum to keep going. We knew we fought this hard and we had to win. We didn’t let up and it was an even sweeter victory overcoming the deficit we faced.”
“It took a lot of grit for us to win that set,” Vanderburg said. “It’s not easy being that far along in that high of a scoring set to be down with the team having game point so many times. For us to be able to push through that was a testament to that. I kept yelling from the sidelines for them to just tie it up, because it has to go to win by two. We just kept hanging around and were eventually able to finish it off.”
Prairiland seemed to be in control for most of the third set, but Paris did not lay down in the slightest. The Lady ’Cats cut an 8-point deficit to two points at 20-18, forcing a Prairiland timeout. The waning stages of the set remained close, but Prairiland eventually got a little bit of breathing room at 24-20. A hit out of bounds gave Paris a point, but Sessums ended the match with a big kill on the next point to close the deal for the Lady Patriots at 25-21.
Sessums led the Prairiland attack with strong performance across the board. She finished with 26 assists, 16 kills and 12 digs, while Parris was a force on the front line with 15 kills. Clark had several key hustle plays along with 21 assists, 20 digs and 3 kills, while Folse finished with 9 kills and 6 digs. Trynity Chapman played strong defensively with 19 digs, while Brook Tuck was a huge defensive boost with 18 digs. Gray played well offensively and defensively with 6 kills and 15 digs.
McAmis played excellently as she led Paris with 16 kills, 31 digs, 1 solo block and 4 service aces, while Woodby also had a significant impact with 13 kills, 24 digs and 2 blocks. Lewis recorded 4 kills, 19 assists and 10 digs, while Weatherford played very well all around with 25 assists and 13 digs. Presli Chapman was strong on the front line with with 6 digs and 6 blocks, while Gibbons also contributed with 5 kills and 3 blocks. Skylar Coursey added 5 digs as well.
The Lady Pats resume tournament play Thursday and Saturday in the North Hopkins Tournament, while the Lady ’Cats aim to rebound at 4:30 p.m. Friday at home against Texas High.