STARKVILLE — Tuesday night’s match started out anything but the way Starkville volleyball wanted, quickly going down two sets to Oxford in a matter of just over a half-hour.
The Chargers were clinical and stormed out to a two-set lead, but the tide shifted to start the third set. Starkville came out strong and held tough, taking a 7-4 lead at one point early on.
The change, it turned out, was only temporary.
Oxford went on a 13-1 run from that point, finishing the set on a 21-6 run to sweep the Yellow Jackets, 3-0. Set scores were 25-12, 25-13 and 25-13.
“I wish we would have kept up that momentum,” Starkville head coach Haley Maughan said. “For some reason, something shifted and we went back to that first and second set. We improved a little bit each time, but I told them I needed to improve a lot. We improved, but then it went back down.”
From early on, the game felt like it was going the Chargers’ way. Just several points into the first set, junior setter Riley Suggs landed what looked like a perfect ball right on the right sideline, just over the net.
Suggs’ shot was called out, and Oxford took a 4-0 lead in the first set. Momentum stayed on the visiting side of the court and other than that brief period to start the third set never translated over to the home side.
“We need to work on our passing,” Suggs said. “I think we definitely have the hitting skill, and as a setter, I feel like I can get to a lot of things, but I feel like it would be a lot easier if our passers could get there.”
Starkville has had its fair share of troubles against Oxford in recent years, with Tuesday’s loss making 12 straight sets that the Yellow Jackets have dropped against the Chargers.
That dates back to the 2020 postseason, where Oxford won in straight sets. The three matches since then have looked the same.
Throughout the match, the Yellow Jackets resembled deer in headlights, just struggling to figure out anything as Oxford time after time took advantage.
“It seemed like maybe we weren’t here tonight,” Maughan said. “We weren’t giving our 100 percent here tonight, maybe focused on other things outside of this.”
Starkville, on the whole, didn’t make many mistakes in the match and put together some great rallies, keeping points alive. Those digs led to several points won, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Maughan talked about a potential effect from Tuesday night’s crowd, the biggest home crowd of the season so far for the Yellow Jackets. Getting accustomed to the environment and situation definitely plays a role in a team’s confidence.
“We came out for our first home game this week, and it felt like a practice match compared to this,” Maughan said. “This just felt more intense, more meaningful because this was a district match, and we needed that one. We’re hoping to come back stronger, smarter and more powerful next time we see them.”
Starkville’s schedule doesn’t get much easier as the Jackets welcome local rival Caledonia on Thursday. The strong opponents continue, which means flushing this loss quickly to prepare for the Cavaliers.
Even with a tough loss, there were many talking points and ways to build off this performance for the remainder of the season.
“This is definitely going to help us get better because we saw what we needed to work on to go and fight next time,” Suggs said. “Against teams not as strong as them, I think if we have the motivation that we did, then we can beat all the other teams we have to play.”
Caledonia 3, Amory 0
AMORY — Caledonia volleyball defeated Amory on the road on Tuesday night, 3-0. Set scores were 25-23, 25-23 and 25-20.
The Cavaliers (5-3) played Amory tough but were able to win in straight sets, securing their second win in their last three matches against the Panthers.
Caledonia will play its next match on the road against Starkville at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
New Hope 3, Heritage Academy 0
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