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Members of the men’s basketball team helped rally the crowd at the Hunt Center behind the 17th-ranked Lady Dragons volleyball team Saturday. In a best-of-five match, the team lost the first two sets but came back to beat Navarro 15-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 15-10. (eParisExtra.com photo by Charles Richards)
Members of PJC’s volleyball team were all smiles after an unlikely comeback Saturday in which they dropped the first two sets, then broke out of their doldrums to win three straight sets to capture their 11th straight match. The Lady Dragons” next game in the Hunt Center is Saturday at noon against Ranger College. PJC is at Hill College in Hillsboro on Monday at at Trinity Valley CC in Athens on Wednesday. (eParisExgtra.com photo by Charles Richards)
Andi Hurt, a 5-8 Paris Junior College freshman from Copperas Cove, prepares to put away a shot against Navarro on Saturday. (eParisExtra.com photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Rowdy students turned the Hunt Center into a real home court advantage Saturday for the Paris Junior College volleyball team, which lost the first two sets to Navarro College before rallying to a five-set victory.
It was the 11th consecutive victory for PJC (16-5), which came into the game ranked No. 17 among the nation’s junior college volleyball teams.
After the Lady Dragons finished off the 15-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 15-10 victory, Navarro coach Kasey McBrearty complained that PJC students got too raucous. She also complained about a couple of calls made by the officiating crew over the last couple of sets..
“I think it was just a lot of frustration on her part. It was just a very intense match. They were ahead 2-0 and we finally turned on our engines and started playing, and it was frustrating (for Navarro),” PJC coach Justin Maness said.
“Our gym is a gym that people don’t like to play in. We may not have the biggest facility, but we have the people – we have the people in the stands,” Maness said. “It’s a small gym, and it’s a gym where the walls close in on you, especially if you’re the opposing team. It’s definitely a home court advantage for us.”
Andi Hurt and Kariana Castanon-Hill had 13 kills each for the Lady Dragons, and Katie Poole had 10.
Lauren Hamaker had 25 assists and Jordan Strickland 17. Karina Garcia had 20 digs, Poole 19 and Katie Clapp 16.
As a team, Paris had 15 block assists and 3 solo blocks, two of them by Castanon-Hill.
The Navarro coach had no concerns about the noise from the bleachers during the first two sets, which her team dominated.
“It looked like they came to play and we didn’t, and I was kind of concerned about that. That’s kind of unusual for my squad because they usually play pretty consistent,” Maness said.
“But, you know, we got us a big win against Panola the other night, and I think the girls might have still been riding kind of high. Navarro wasn’t making many mistakes, and we were – service errors, hitting into the net,” Maness said.
In the first set, Navarro got off to an 8-2 lead, increased that to 13-3, then 20-8. The Lady Dragons got no closer than 21-13 before Navarro closed out a 25-15 win.
The second set went back and forth, and PJC won three straight points for a 9-6 lead before Navarro countered with an 10-2 run for a 16-11 advantage. PJC closed to within 18-16, but could never wrest away the lead. The Lady Dragons won three straight points to get within 24-23 before Navarro closed out the set.
“At the beginning, I wasn’t impressed with many of our people,” Maness said. “I’m going to tell you, after set two, to dig a hole against this team like that, it takes everything in the world to get back into the game. It’s all about switching that momentum and getting it on your side, and we finally did it.”
In the third set, the Lady Dragons jumped out to a 6-1 lead and stretched it out to 13-7. But Navarro won four straight points and it was close the rest of the way. The visitors never led in the third set, but did manage to pull into a 19-19 tie.
PJC won a big point to get to game point in game three. The Lady Dragons made a couple of saves when it appeared the point was all but wrapped up for Navarro.
Instead of the visitors gaining a 23-23 tie in the pivotal third set, PJC grabbed the point for a 24-22 lead and closed out the set on the next point.
“Oh, that was huge,” Maness said. “We worked in practice on winning that rally. Those long rallies go back and forth. It’s such a momentum builder if we can win ‘em. That was key, and I think that rolled over into the fourth set and of course into game five.”
Trailing 16-13 in the fourth set, the Lady Dragons won the next six points for a 19-16 lead. PJC held the lead the rest of the way for a 25-22 win.
That evened the match at two sets apiece, setting up a tie-breaker game to 15 that the Lady Dragons were ready for.
“Oh, my goodness. They were on a roll,” Maness said. “I could really tell that they were pumped up and ready. It shows what they’ve got. I was pleased with them,” he said.
PJC got off to a 4-1 lead before Navarro fought back for a 7-6 advantage and then for an 8-8 tie. The Lady Dragons took the next three points and six out of the next seven to get to 14-9.
Needing to win only one of the next five points, PJC quickly closed out the match with a 15-10 decision and the match.
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