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Panola College’s J’Keisha Evans smashes the ball toward what she hopes will be a 23-22 lead over Paris Junior College in the third set of a Region 14 volleyball match Wednesday. But PJC’s T’Asia Black and Kariana Castanon-Hill blocked the shot. (eParisExtra.com photo by Charles Richards)
… the ball caromed out of reach of Panola’s Dragana Micic, and PJC had a 23-22 lead in the third and final set. The Lady Dragons won two of the next three points for a 31-29, 25-20, 25-23 victory over Panola College’s Fillies.
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Down 14-8 in the third set, the 17th-ranked Paris Junior College volleyball team regrouped during a time out and won 12 of the next 15 points Wednesday and went on to defeat Panola College in three sets 31-29, 25-20, 25-23.
“Oh, my goodness, what a match!” Lady Dragons coach Justin Maness said after his team’s 10th straight victory, improving its record to 15-5.
“In volleyball, whenever you win the first two games, I think you tend to rock back on your heels and get comfortable, and see what the other team does – see if they’re going to come out and play or if they’re going to fold,” Maness said.
“I told them that this team would not fold, that they definitely wanted to win. I’m glad the girls kind of changed that mentality and started pushing back.”
The three-set victory was particularly sweet coming over Panola, which year in and year out has been one of the best volleyball teams in Region 14.
“That’s the first time in at least three years that we’ve beaten them. So it is a big accomplishment for our program. It makes a statement,” Maness said.
Katie Poole, a 5-8 sophomore outside hitter from Rowlett, had 12 kills for PJC, with only one error (“That’s pretty amazing,” Maness said), and added 15 digs.
Abby Phillips, a 5-11 freshman from Bryan “who I thought played extremely well,” the coach said, had 8 kills and one block assist.
The first game was the toughest. PJC had the early lead, but Panola’s Fillies won three straight points to go ahead 10-9 and led 13-10, 15-11, and 18-15 before PJC rallied for an 18-18 tie. Panola won five of the next seven points to go up 23-20.
The Lady Dragons won the next three points for a 23-23 tie, but still had to fight off four game-point serves by Panola before pulling away for a 31-19 win.
“That was a big win going into the second set,” Maness said. “I mean, to go that high in volleyball is crazy. As the score gets higher, the intensity and emotion also go higher, and I thought my girls showed a lot of poise in being able to get the win.”
PJC’s Kariana Castanon-Hill, a 6-2 freshman from Albany, Calif., had 7 kills, one block solo, and 3 block assists. Andrea Hurt, a 5-8 freshman from Copperas Cove, had 8 kills.
Lauren Hamaker, a 5-9 sophomore from Cedar Park, had a team-high 22 assists, backed by Jordan Strickland, a 5-9 freshman from Lexington, Ky., with 20.
Karina Garcia, a sophomore Libera from McAllen, had 19 digs, followed by Katie Clapp, a 5-9 sophomore from Fort Worth, with 17.
Next up for the Lady Dragons is another home game – at 2 p.m. Saturday against Navarro College.
The National Junior College Athletic Association’s weekly volleyball rankings came out Wednesday, and PJC was No. 17 for the second straight week.
“Just being able to stay in (the rankings) for two weeks is tough,” Maness said. “Hopefully, maybe this next week, if we keep playing well, we’ll see ourselves move up a little bit.”
San Jacinto College (19-1), which plays in the South Zone of Region 14, is ranked No. 2 nationally. Tyler Junior College (15-2) is No. 8, and Western Texas (14-2) is No. 12. Three of PJC’s five losses have come to those schools. Blinn College (11-4) is No. 14.
Trinity Valley (13-5), Laredo Community College (12-1), Odessa College (8-5) and Midland College (9-5) received points but not enough to crack into the Top 20.
PJC students were out in force for the Panola-PJC game. The school’s soccer players yelled, “Ole, ole, ole, ole, ole!” after each of the victorious three sets. PJC volleyball coach Justin Maness laughed at that and said later, “We appreciate their support!”
The Lady Dragons volleyball team, above, is shown during the playing of the National Anthem before the introduction of players prior to the first game against Panola. (eParisExtra.com photo by Charles Richards)