The Prairiland Lady Patriots volleyball team got a gut check in the first set. The Lady Patriots (3-1) were put on notice by a scrappy Caddo Mills team after the visitors took the first set 25-14. However, Prairiland gathered itself well by taking the next three sets, claiming the victory over Caddo Mills at home Tuesday night by a final score of 14-25, 25-9, 25-22, and 25-18.
Caddo Mills’ hustle and effort proved to be a tough match early on for Prairiland, but the home team showed its hustling abilities and prowess behind the service line to get back in the match.
“We’re not the biggest team, so we have to have other ways of being aggressive,” Lady Patriots head volleyball coach Emily Vanderburg said. “One of those is always the hustle plays. I think we did a really good job with our hustle plays and from the service line. I feel like we still missed too many, but I feel like we had enough aces to make up for the missed serves. When you have aggressive serving, that’s an opportunity to get free points.”
Even though it was not the start the brand new Lady Patriots team had hoped for, the leadership from the upperclassmen coupled with the contributions across the entire team has produced results early in the young 2020 season.
“Coming out as a new team definitely serves its challenges for each person, but I think we’ve handled it very well,” Praiirland junior outside hitter Ali Sessums said. “From our one freshman to our sophomores and all the way up to our seniors, each person has stepped up and has been able to show what they’re able to give to the team. I think that and the experience the rest of the upperclassmen and I have from last year has really been helpful. Our experience has translated over and gave us older girls the responsibility that we needed to carry over and really bring this team together.”
Prairiland and Caddo Mills were tied at 4-all early in the second set, but the Lady Patriots surged ahead 11-5 behind multiple aces from sophomore Kyndal Yaross and big kills from senior T.J. Folse and Sessums. The Lady Foxes called a timeout to try to stop the bleeding, but Prairiland picked up right where it left off after the short break.
Yaross pounded another ace, then Sessums punished the ball for a kill to make it a 15-5 advantage for the home team. After that, big blocks from Folse and junior middle blocker Abi Farmerextended the lead to 19-7 to force another timeout from the road team. An ace from Sessums followed by a Farmer kill ended the set in favor of Prairiland.
The dominance and cohesion on the front line, spearheaded by quality play from Farmer, Folse, senior Reese Parris, Sessums, and company proved to be another catalyst in turning the tide of this match.
“I think that we all know each other’s limits and expectations of each other really well,” Farmer said. “I think the setters have a big role in how we connect so well. Coming back from last year together, it was very beneficial in helping out the freshman from last year. I think they’ve adapted really well. Even though they’re tiny, I think they have a lot of fight, and we have a lot of fight to add to that. I think we can cover where they need to be covered and we all know our boundaries really well.”
The team’s chemistry was put to the test in a challenging third set. The set was close throughout the beginning stages until Prairiland gained separation with a 5-0 run to pull ahead 17-12. Caddo Mills responded with a 5-0 run to tie it at 17-all, and the stage was set for a close finish. A few points later with Prairiland holding a 24-22 lead, sophomore setter Chloe Raley came up with a timely ace to end the decisive third set in the Lady Pats’ favor.
The Lady Patriots got off to a blistering start with an 8-0 run to open the fourth set and held a large lead most of the way. However, the scrappy Lady Foxes gained momentum with several quality points earned off hustle plays to pull within 21-17. Sessums was key in turning away the furious rally with a key back-row kill and the match-ending ace.
Prairiland showed resolve, effort, and flashes of brilliance on offense and defense in the match against Caddo Mills, but Vanderburg wants to see her team continue to sharpen their skills in specific areas as the season moves forward.
“I’d like for us to be more consistent with the shots we take,” Vanderburg said. “When we’re up, I feel like everything is good. Every once in a while, we get stuck in certain serve-receive spots and rotations, and it just comes down to us being more consistent in getting out of those spots.”