Nederland takes rematch, ties PNG for first

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, October 12, 2016

PORT NECHES — The District 22-5A volleyball race is now even.

That can’t be said about Tuesday night’s Mid-County Madness renewal.
Nederland stormed back form a first-set defeat to beat Port Neches-Groves in four and join the Rock-A-Noos atop district standings. The Bulldogs won 15-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-21 before a nearly packed gymnasium at PNG.

“It’s huge,” Nederland coach Kristin Lemoine said. “You’ve got to have tunnel vision. You have to learn to tune all that out. Let the fans battle each other, and you battle each other on the court.”

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Battle the Bulldogs did.

Nederland (9-1 in 22-5A) was determined to not let this latest meeting with PNG (9-1 district) go a fifth set like the last time. The teams traded set victories until PNG won the fifth 18-16 in Nederland.

This time, the Bulldogs had to dig out of an early hole after the Rock-A-Noos kept their defense off-balance all set.

“We just had to get our minds right,” Lemoine said. “Instead of setting big goals, we said, ‘Let’s start out smaller. Let’s set smaller goals. Let’s try to get two points here. Let’s try to get two points there. Let’s try to get one-up on this one.”

The Bulldogs turned things around behind the play of their front line after having defensive troubles in the opening set.

“Our front line was unbelievable,” Lemoine said. “We struggled in that first set, but they saw that our defense was hustling their butts off, and they were like, ‘Defense, we’re going to start picking this up for you. We’re going to start putting that ball away to give you rest.’”

Momentum only took the Rock-A-Noos so far. The Bulldogs stormed from a 9-4 deficit in the second set to force four ties and eventually come away on top.
PNG coach Barbara Comeaux said Nederland never gave up after the Rock-A-Noos’ solid first set.

“We missed a couple of serves there, and I think that gave them a little momentum,” Comeaux said. “I have to credit Nederland for not giving up. They played well on defense, and obviously we have a lot of things to work on.”

PNG tried to return the favor in set 3 and came from 18-11 down to pull within 22-21, but Nederland — after going up 24-21 — finished it off with an attack by Peyton Parker that bounced off the PNG libero.

Nederland outscored PNG 8-3 to close out the winning set. Blake MacFarlane’s attack to wrap things up put the exclamation mark on a key victory.

“It’s all about them,” Lemoine said. “They’re the ones that chose this. They’re the ones that decided, ‘We’re going to be district champs.’ We’re not happy we lost the first game. They’re the ones that turned things around. It’s all them, not me.”

MacFarlane led Nederland with 10 kills and 10 digs. Darcie Jones led the defensive charge with 24 digs, while Abbey Montalvo totaled 19. Katelynn Huckabay totaled nine kills and six digs, Parker killed 11, Chelsey Gallagher Kennedy Kieschnick collected 13 and 10 digs, respectively and Hannah Smith added five kills.

Kailey Oliver had 20 service points and nine digs to lead PNG. Rachel Hammersmith made 25 assists to go with 13 service points and 10 digs, Kaitlyn Gil had 14 SPs and 14 digs, Libbie LeJeune totaled 21 digs and 11 SPs, Bayla Newby totaled 18 digs and 11 SPs, Cheyanne Orozco had 15 hits and three blocks and Baylee Priddy totaled 16 assists, 11 SPs and 10 digs.

Comeaux hopes Tuesday’s match will serve as a wake-up call for the tradition-rich Rock-A-Noos.

“You have to play three straight games or you’re going to be playing longer or not playing,” she said.

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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