Starkville survives battle against Ackerman
Starkville High School freshman outside hitter McKay Richardson sets up a play Tuesday night against Ackerman. (Kim Murrell/SDN)
Starkville High maintained its volleyball dominance at the Beehive Tuesday by the slimmest of margins.
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The Lady Jackets survived a major challenge from Ackerman for their sixth straight home win, a 3-2 victory over the Lady Indians.
Starkville (14-5) won the first set 25-18, dropped the next two 26-24 and 25-16, before rallying to win sets four and five by scores of 25-19 and 16-14 to stay unbeaten on their home court.
"I'm just really proud that the girls were able to pull through," said Starkville head coach Lauren Love. "It's great to come out and win the first set, but then to lose the next two, that's pretty tough mentally and emotionally to come back from. But they did and we're proud."
Ackerman (13-5) appeared to be well on its way to knocking off the Lady Jackets. After falling in the first set, the Lady Indians battled back from a 19-14 hole to claim the second set and even things up.
The Lady Indians followed that by dominating the third set.
"At times, we played uninspired and lost the momentum," said Love. "We would make a mistake and then give up more than just the one point, and it would carry on."
Ackerman bolted out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set before the Lady Jackets finally began reestablishing some momentum of their own, taking the fourth set.
It was a script that Lady Indians head coach Amanda Carden had seen before.
"The same thing happened over here last year," said Carden. "We got up early two sets and then they rallied. So I expected it. They're a good team and they're well-coached and they've got good athletes."
In the fifth set, the Lady Jackets sprinted out to a 6-0 lead, but the Lady Indians began clawing back.
That's when Starkville's court captain and setter Wheeler Richardson called a timeout to rally the troops, setting the stage for the match-clinching victory.
"They just figured out that if we want to win as a team, we've got to play as a team," said Love.
Richardson finished with 23 digs, 19 assists, nine kills, and five aces.
Elizabeth Scott led the Lady Jackets with 32 digs to go along with her nine kills and six aces.
McKay Richardson tallied eight kills and seven aces.
Both Khristian Carr and Rebecca Myles also put forth solid efforts, with Carr recording seven kills and Myles getting five.
While Love was glad to escape the Ackerman game with a win, Starkville's second-year head coach feels the Lady Jackets can't afford many performances like the one they had Tuesday.
"We can not play this way," said Love. "We were up and down with such peaks and valleys. We can't do that if we expect our season to continue on (to the MHSAA playoffs) in October."
Starkville will get plenty of opportunities to work out any kinks this weekend. The Lady Jackets will play at least four matches on Saturday at Madison Central.
Starkville battles St. Andrews, Long Beach, Northwest Rankin, and Hattiesburg, and depending on the results of those matches, could continue on into bracket play later in the day.
The Lady Jackets begin district play next Tuesday on the road in Columbus, before returning to the Beehive to face Tupelo next Thursday.