Northwest finishes with 28-17 record; best in program history
Photo credit: Kevin Pitts, nwccrangers.com
In recent years, volleyball matches between Northwest and Pearl River have gone back and forth, and Saturday’s Region 23 Championship clash was no exception.
Though the Lady Rangers and Pearl River traded blows in a five-set battle of wits, it was the Lady Wildcats that ultimately came out victorious. The 3-2 loss ended the season for Northwest.
Pearl River opened the match with a 4-1 advantage, only for Northwest to quickly battle back for a 7-7 draw. Both teams went back and forth for the next couple of points, but after an 11-11 tie, the Lady Wildcats went on a 4-0 run to widen the gap to 15-11.
Late in the first set, Pearl River pulled away for a 24-14 advantage and ultimately captured the first set, 25-17.
Despite the momentum behind the home team after claiming the opening set, Northwest did not back down. After a 5-1 deficit to start the set, the Lady Rangers rallied back for an 8-8 tie and went on a massive run, earning a 17-12 lead. Pearl River battled back for a 22-22 tie, but Northwest fought through the rally to take the second set, 25-23.
With the match all tied up at 1-1, Northwest managed to hold a lead for the majority of the third set. However, Pearl River eventually broke a 15-15 tie and battled through to earn the 25-21 decision, taking a 2-1 match lead.
Northwest refused to back down though, as the Lady Rangers opened the fourth set with a 13-5 lead. Pearl River once again tried to rally down the stretch, but the Lady Rangers hung on to force the winner-take-all fifth set.
As hard as Northwest fought all afternoon, the Lady Rangers finally ran out of gas in the final set. Pearl River opened with a 4-0 lead and turned a 7-3 advantage into a 15-4 clincher.
Jacia Hayes concluded her Northwest volleyball career with 17 kills in the loss, finishing as the program’s all-time leader in kills (533) and total blocks (167). Kailey Gooch also contributed 14 kills and four blocks, ending in second for total blocks and fourth in kills.
Sophomore Cristen Cleveland finished with a team-best 24 digs in the match, and the Hernando native leaves Northwest as the all-time leader in digs (560) and service aces (134). Kaley Rikard also finished second for career digs and service aces, while also finishing third in career kills.
Micah Swift and Caroline Howard also conclude their Northwest careers in the top five for kills, blocks and digs. Swift finishes fifth for total kills and fourth in career blocks, while Howard leaves fourth in career digs.
Northwest ends the 2023 campaign with the program’s best record at 28-17 overall.