Clinton beats Lady Vikes for 11th consecutive time

Published 8:22 am Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sydney Stuart took a big step toward the back line, raised her arm and sent the volleyball flying forward. As it slapped the net and bounced back toward her teammates, her arms went to cover her head in frustration.

It was a small but crucial moment, and one that summed up perfectly Warren Central’s latest futile attempt to beat its archnemesis Clinton.

The Lady Vikes won the first set, then fell victim to a string of their own mistakes and lost 3-1 (20-25, 25-18, 25-19, 25-20) on Tuesday night. Warren Central still has never beaten Clinton, its losing streak now at 11 matches.

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“We came out, we were brisk, and we were fighting. The girls came out loose. I think we just tightened up,” Warren Central coach Matt Gullett said. “That third set, they were trying to do too much and communication dropped. Once that happens, you’ve got too many people running into each other, and balls hitting the floor, and errors being made.”

The last time the teams played, a month ago in Clinton, it was an ultra-competitive five-setter. That was the first time since 2012 that the Lady Vikes (8-7, 2-2 Region 4-III) had even won a set against Clinton, and they continued that trend of improvement by winning the first set Tuesday.

Things quickly unraveled in the second set, though. Clinton (7-11, 4-0) never trailed and seized control by ripping off six straight points to take a 13-7 lead. Warren Central closed the gap, but made a slew of mishits and faulted on a couple of serves to break up its momentum.

Clinton then dominated the third set by following a similar pattern. Taking advantage of a half-dozen unforced errors by the Lady Vikes, it opened a 13-point lead before a late surge made the score more respectable.

In the match, Clinton served 11 aces and put 94.6 percent of its serves in play.

“Serving is a big thing for us, and we always aim to serve above 90 percent. We ran our middles out of place, which we have not been doing because our paths have not been there, so we had a better path that allowed us to run a full spread offense and have options,” Clinton coach Melissa Denson said.

Set four was much more like the first, except with the outcome reversed. The teams traded points and the lead until Clinton scored nine of the last 11 points. Stuart’s fault came with Clinton holding a 21-19 lead, after the Lady Vikes had let an 18-16 lead slip away.

“Every one of the players tonight did something that was a contribution toward a win. And we all made small mistakes,” Gullett said.

The loss ended Warren Central’s hope of hosting a playoff match, but it still can clinch a playoff berth for the second consecutive season by beating Greenville at home on Thursday and Callaway on the road on Sept. 22.

“We’re still in the playoff hunt,” Gullett said. “Secure two wins and we’re in the first round of the playoffs again. Getting back in, that’ll be nice.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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