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By CHARLES RICHARDS
The Paris Junior College volleyball team fell to Trinity Valley Community College in five sets Wednesday on Sophomore Night, closing the regular season with its fourth straight conference loss.
Despite PJC’s 25-16, 26-28, 22-25, 25-8, 12-15 loss that left the two teams with identical 3-5 records in the North Zone of Region XIV, the Lady Dragons held onto the third seed in the conference team scheduled for Nov. 1-4 at Lee College in Baytown.
PJC won the first set easily and had leads of 24-23 and 26-25 before Trinity Valley won three straight points to even the match.
“We let that one get away. We should have won that second set. We should have won it,” PJC coach Justin Maness said.
Trinity Valley came from behind to win the third set as well to take a 2-1 lead, but PJC won the fourth set going away. The Lady Dragons took a 5-3 lead, then captured 17 of the next 18 points en route to a 25-8 win.
“It’s kind of scary sometimes to win that big against a team. You get in your mind that they’re not going to be ready to come out and play, and they are,” Maness said.
Trinity Valley led all the way in the deciding fifth set. PJC was within 8-7 before the Lady Cardinals pulled away for a 15-12 win and the match. Trinity Valley improved to 17-11 overall and 3-5 in conference.
PJC, which was ranked as high as No. 15 nationally before its late-season slump, dropped to 21-10 and 3-5.
Halfway through the season, the Lady Dragons stood at 3-1 in conference play, including a close four-set loss to Tyler — which was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time. PJC closed out the regular season with successive conference losses to Tyler, Panola, Navarro and Trinity Valley.
“It was a tough loss, it definitely was. But it doesn’t put us out of the tournament, it just changed the seeding a little bit,” Maness said.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Maness said of his team’s late-season struggles. “But that’s what teams go through, and we’re going through it right now. We had a week off, and I think coming off that break it was tough getting our engines running again. Hopefully, we can bounce back with a couple of practices before the tournament and see what happens.”
After Wednesday’s match, Maness and Trinity Valley coach Tosha Spain had to sit down and calculate how many points each team had scored, since the two teams finished with the same league record, and both teams lost in five sets at home and won in five sets on the road.
In their two games against each other, PJC outscored Trinity Valley 214-210. TVCC came out ahead 108 to 104 in the game at Athens, and PJC came out ahead 110-102 in Wednesday’s game at Paris.
As the No. 4 seed, Trinity Valley must play the South’s No. 1 seed, nationally No. 1-ranked San Jacinto in the first round of the tournament.
PJC also has a tough game, however. The Lady Dragons will start against the North’s No. 2 seed, nationally No. 9-ranked Blinn.
“It’s a double-elimination tournament, so we’re guaranteed two matches down there,” Maness said.
The North Zone will be represented by No. 5-ranked Tyler (25-3, 8-0), Panola (16-11, 4-4), Paris (21-10, 3-5) and Trinity Valley (17-11, 3-5). Navarro (10-11, 2-6) was the North Zone’s other team.
In the six-team South Zone, the top four seeds are San Jacinto (28-1), Blinn (22-5), Wharton (18-7) and Laredo (18-7). Not qualifying were Lee and Coastal Bend, who won only two games between them.
Katie Poole and Katie Clapp had 15 kills apiece for the Lady Dragons against Trinity Valley. Abby Phillips added 9 kills and Andrea Hurt had 7. Lauren Hamaker and Jordan Strickland each had 23 assists. Poole had 24 digs, Karina Garcia 23, and Clapp 18. Hurt had 5 block assists, Kariana Castanon-Hill 3 and T’Asia Black 5. Black had 2 solo blocks, and Clapp had 1.