NEW HOPE — When New Hope and Caledonia faced off at the beginning of the season, the Trojans defeated the Cavaliers in four sets on the road just before district play began.
On Tuesday night, with both teams wrapping up their season schedules, having gone unbeaten in district play, Caledonia was looking to flip the script from August.
Tuesday’s match was bigger than just volleyball with it being the annual Dig Pink Game. Both teams and both sets of fans wore pink and helped raise money for breast cancer research and awareness.
However, like the prior match in August, New Hope came out strong and didn’t let up, defeating Caledonia in straight sets to hoist the Dig Pink trophy. The Trojans beat the Cavaliers in the annual rivalry contest for the third straight time, evening the Dig Pink series at 3-3.
Set scores were 25-19, 25-11 and 25-15.
“We were just on tonight,” New Hope head coach Allison Woolbright said. “This is always a big game. Caledonia is always competitive, but that second set just sealed it.”
This was a big match for New Hope, not just to secure bragging rights heading into next season but to clean up mistakes from previous matches.
Last Thursday, the Trojans won the first two sets of its match against Oxford, looking to take down the Chargers in straight sets.
Instead of New Hope sweeping the match, Oxford outlasted the Trojans, winning the final three sets to win the match, 3-2.
Heading into that third set, the last thing New Hope wanted was a repeat of Thursday, but the team buckled down and finished the job in emphatic fashion.
“It’s really big for us to get the first and second sets,” New Hope outside hitter Megan Neeb said. “We know to push even harder for the third set. We can’t let up.”
Neeb recorded the game-winning kills in each of the first two sets, and especially in that second set, the Trojans did not let up, at one point going on a 12-0 run and ending the set on a 15-2 run.
The first set was the closest one of the match, one that Caledonia was very much in until the end, when New Hope was able to pull away just enough to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
With this being the Cavs’ final regular-season match before the postseason, this match, despite the loss, was what they needed heading into next week.
“We talked about that post-match,” Caledonia head coach Samantha Brooks said. “Of course, we wanted to win, but playing in this environment against this competition as well with the noise and the taunting and all that is really good and really important for us heading into the playoffs.”
In the end, the game was one thing, but being able to play for something bigger in the fight against breast cancer brought everyone together for what turned out to be a great game and fantastic environment.
Now, there’s a trophy on the line to play for moving forward, making this match that much more highly anticipated in the future.
New Hope has one regular-season match remaining Thursday, but both teams have a bye heading into the postseason and will have a few more days of practice and preparation before each team’s first playoff match next Tuesday.
West Lowndes 3, Aberdeen 2
West Lowndes pulled out a close five-set win over Aberdeen on Tuesday in a back-and-forth match until the end.
Set scores were 24-26, 27-25, 25-20, 16-25 and 15-11.
The Panthers got out to a 2-1 match lead after winning the second and third sets, but they had to win in five after Aberdeen comfortably won the fourth set.
Starkville 3, Noxapater 0
STARKVILLE — Starkville looked as dominant as ever this season, defeating Noxapater in straight sets on Tuesday night.
Set scores were 25-13, 25-6 and 25-15.
The second set was the highlight of the match for the Yellow Jackets (11-15), a team that always looks to hold opponents to under 10 points in a set, something they were able to do in that second set.
Starkville was led by Riley Suggs with seven aces and 14 assists, Zariyah Edwards with eight kills and five blocks and MaKeelie Cummings with nine digs.
Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Homeschool 3, Heritage Academy 0
Heritage Academy fell in straight sets at home on Tuesday night against Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Homeschool.
Set scores were 12-25, 16-25 and 16-25.
The Patriots (2-13), who have struggled throughout the year at generating offense, once again had similar struggles in the loss.
Pillow Academy 7, Starkville Academy 0
GREENWOOD — Starkville Academy was bounced from the MAIS playoffs after a first-round away defeat against Pillow Academy, 7-0, on Tuesday night.
It was a rough game for the Volunteers, who were dominated in every segment of the game by the Mustangs.
Tuesday night marked the end of Starkville Academy’s season, one that the Vols remained competitive in during district play, but came up short in the end.
Bayou Academy 1, Heritage Academy 0
Heritage Academy made a surprise exit in the first round of the MAIS playoffs, losing 1-0 at home to Bayou Academy.
Coming in as the top seed playing at home, the Patriots fought hard on Tuesday night, getting a number of chances in on goal or near the box, but couldn’t get one past Bayou’s keeper.
Having struggled against Bayou earlier in the season, Heritage gave up a second-half goal which proved to be the winner in the end, knocking the No. 1 seed Pats from the playoffs.
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