On Tuesday night, the Prairiland Lady Patriots welcomed Emory Rains to Pattonville. The top two teams in the district squared off with plenty on the line. Prairiland already beat Rains in Emory, but the Lady Wildcats came into the match determined. Ultimately, the visitors’ strong all-around performance lifted Rains over Prairiland (18-3, 9-1) in three tight sets. In the end, the Lady Patriots lost their first district game by a final score of 26-28, 18-25, and 22-25.
One major aspect of the match was how both teams started each set. In all three sets, Rains jumped out to an early lead. The Lady Wildcats surged ahead 7-1 in the first set, 13-8 in the second set, and 9-0 in the third set. With that, Prairiland felt the difficulties of playing from behind against a fully prepared Rains squad.
“Rains was ready for us this time,” Lady Patriots head volleyball coach Emily Vanderburg said. “Not to take anything away from our team, but I feel like they really weren’t ready for us the first time. This time, they were ready. We talked about it all week leading up to the match and I was letting the girls know that they would be ready for us. We would get up in the match, and then we would let them catch back up. We didn’t have a solid start in any of the sets and that, to me, was what really hurt us more than anything.”
An exciting start
The opening set proved to be the most entertaining of the three. Rains opened up the action on a 7-1 run. Prairiland was forced to call a timeout, and the home team turned things around. The Lady Pats front line players got into a good rhythm to help get them back into the match. Prairiland senior middle Reese Parris ignited the spark with a big kill and junior Abi Farmer recorded an emphatic block. Then, a kill from senior middle T.J. Folse and a Rains error trimmed the deficit to 15-12.
A few points later, Rains called a timeout trailing 19-17. Junior outside hitter Ali Sessums’ kill, another Rains error, and a block from Parris gave Prairiland its first lead of the set. The visitors got back into the match by using a 5-1 run to claim a 22-21 lead. However, back-to-back kills from Farmer and Parris put the Lady Pats ahead at 23-22. Sessums aced the Lady Wildcats defense that both pushed the lead to 24-22 and forced Rains to burn its final timeout.
Even with the deficit, Rains quickly regained the advantage at 25-24 with a 3-0 spurt. Prairiland used its final timeout and was able to tie the score at 25-all and 26-26. However, a kill and an ace by the road team pushed Rains over Prairiland in the first set.
Running out of gas amidst rallies
Prairiland faced significant deficits in the second and third sets but were able to close the gap each time. Impressively, the Lady Patriots pulled to within four points or fewer in the late stages of each set, but Rains closed well on both occasions. The Lady Wildcats used a 5-2 run to finish off Prairiland in the second set. In the third set, the Lady Patriots trailed by as many as nine points but used a late surge to make things interesting. Prairiland trailed 24-22 after an 8-2 run, but Rains’ star sophomore Harley Kreck’s final kill ended the match.
Sessums led Prairiland in the loss with 6 kills, 9 digs, and 2 aces. Folse recorded 9 kills and 1 block, while Parris had 8 kills and 1 block. Farmer made her presence known with 7 kills and 3 blocks, while Chloe Raley added 19 assists and 8 digs. Sophomore setter Hanna Cope poured in 11 assists, while Kyndal Yaross chipped in with 15 digs.
Despite the loss, Prairiland now stands atop the district standings with Rains. Moving forward, Vanderburg wants her team to keep working hard. She emphasized that each game as well as this season should be treated as a long-term process.
“You can’t earn a point that is worth five or six points. You have to earn each point individually,” Vanderburg said. “I told them that they can’t give up or let up. You also can’t play the match like you will score five or six points after you score once. Instead, you have to chip away one point at a time.”
The Lady Patriots will take the court again at 11 a.m. Saturday at home against Grand Saline. For more sports coverage, click here.