Ninth Avenue bedlam: Titans turn around, thwart Eagles’ attack

Published 11:48 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2016

For Port Arthur Memorial’s volleyball team, life on Ninth Avenue is pretty good these days.

Memorial went down the street, literally, to Bob Hope School, and relied on its front line and strong serving to turn around a six-point deficit in a pivotal Game 3 and eventually beat the host Eagles in four Tuesday night. The Titans won 25-16, 19-25, 25-22, 25-11, in front of a standing room-only crowd.

The Class 5A Titans (7-5-1) have won three straight matches, and their confidence level is on the rise in time for district play to begin next week.

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“This game is always difficult because it comes down to who wants it the most,” Memorial coach Bianca Dixon said. “Bob Hope has skill. They have heart. They have pride. And it’s always a battle when we play them.”

With Nayla Bazile doing plenty of work up front, the Titans set a tone early with a 16-5 run to lead 24-11.

“We were actually playing very smart,” Dixon said. “[Bazile] had a lot of kills. When [the Eagles] started to go up to block, she would play smarter and we would tip here and tip there. So, they really didn’t know what to prepare for.”

Bob Hope (8-3), which rose to Class 3A for this season, were trying to score a signature win in the Jacquelynn Kerr era. The Eagles are 6-3 under Kerr, who is the permanent head coach after recent hire Brandee Elliott left to return to Anahuac.

“That was a little rough taking over the team,” Kerr said. “Not so much with the attitudes. They have great attitudes. They are a resilient group of kids. That’s what helped us, them trusting me and knowing I’m going to see it through.”

For a while, momentum was on their side. They climbed back from a 13-8 hole in Game 2 thanks in large part to Michelle Bautista’s kills and solidified their defense against a taller Memorial team that had kept them off rhythm early on.

“We were getting to our spots better,” Kerr said. “We were moving. We were seeing where the set was going a lot quicker. We were able to get down and move and get a hand on some really nice hits coming at us.”

A block broke a 19-all tie for Bob Hope. Vanessa Estupinan connected on three straight service points, and the Eagles tied the match on Bautista’s return point.

Gabriela Arocha sparked Memorial’s Game 3 comeback with three aces in seven straight serves. Riyah Collins, La’Errica Lambert, Diamond Newsome and Bazile supported the rally with key blocks, but the Eagles responded with five straight points to go up 19-14.

Bazile keyed an 11-3 Memorial run and capped it off with a kill. That gave the Titans enough momentum to rout the Eagles in the next set.

“Our front line is playing very good,” Bazile said. “We’re learning to talk more and learning to be more cooperative with each other. We’re just learning to be a great offensive team and defensive team as well, and I give Bob Hope their props for keeping up with us.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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