Pearl River volleyball preparing for historic debut


POPLARVILLE, Miss.— It’s finally here.

Just over a year ago, Pearl River President Dr. Adam Breerwood and Athletics Director Jeff Long announced the school would take the trailblazer role of being the first junior college in Mississippi to add volleyball. Haley Chatham was identified two months later to lead the program and in January the first group of Wildcats were signed — committed to being PRCC’s first.

After months of planning, preparation and construction, the Pearl River volleyball program will make its season debut Saturday at 1 p.m. against visiting Coastal Alabama-East (12-20 overall in 2018).

In preparation for Saturday’s match, the Wildcats played exhibitions against Southern Union State and William Carey. The experiences proved to be invaluable for the young program.

“After our exhibition matches they’re feeling pretty confident. We now know where our weaknesses are and we’re working on them,” Chatham said. “After watching film and see them against another team, we’ve already been able to get stronger in those areas.”

Chatham was particularly impressed with how her Wildcats responded, specifically at SUS, when PRCC took the first two matches before falling 3-2 (25-15, 25-20, 21-25, 21-25, 12-15).

“This past Saturday I was especially delighted at how we played as a team,” Chatham said. “I was even more impressed with how we responded after we were down. They kept their heads up and there was no shoulder slumping. They stayed on one another and were positive and supportive the entire time. That’s one of the most important things about this program.

“Whenever you get into those tough moments for the first time you never know how they’re going to react. They were amazing.”

Even with the two warmups, Saturday will be a learning experience for all involved. With the big picture in mind, and the understanding that this is the start of something special, Chatham said she’s kept her messages to the team upbeat.

“We are committed to celebrating every small success and we’re committed to getting better after each game. That’s our goal,” she said. “It’s really not all about wins and losses for us this year, but that we need to get better after every match.”

REASON TO CELEBRATE Volleyball has become a trending sport in the region, and specifically in Mississippi. Over the last handful of years, the talent in the state, coupled with the number of club teams and even raw numbers of participants have all steadily climbed. Even this season, Pearl River County and the Pine Belt have jumped in with both feet as surrounding high schools have added programs.

The increased numbers in PRCC’s district only adds to the anticipation of Saturday’s debut.

“We hope every single person that will fit in here comes to Shivers Gym. Come be a part of history,” Chatham said. “It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal for the kids and we really need to celebrate that day.”

SHIVERS GYM All home matches will be played at Shivers Gym. For those who are unfamiliar with the facility, it previously was the home for PRCC’s basketball programs and then welcomed the teams back as the school rebuilt Marvin R. White Coliseum after Hurricane Katrina. In recent years it has been occupied by student services, but over the summer PRCC updated the facility so it can be the perfect home for the Volleyball Wildcats.

As you enter the main entrance of campus, located across from Ramey’s grocery store at the Ted. J. Alexander Administration Building, Shivers is the first red brick building on the right.

ROSTER PRCC’s inaugural roster features 14 Wildcats, including 12 Mississippians: Harleigh LaFontaine (Kiln; Hancock), Isabella Thoennes (Kiln; Hancock), Logan Parker (Clinton), Erin Sutton (Olive Branch; Lewisburg), Amber Willis (Columbia; East Marion), Kaliyah Shavers (Flowood; Northwest Rankin), Madison Smith (Madison; Germantown), LaShundria Chatman (Brandon), Carly Danley (Vancleave), Anna Anderson (Madison; Madison Central), Maleah Austin (Diamondhead; Hancock) and Madelyn Misita (Clinton). Additionally, there are two out-of-state Wildcats, Leah Draine (Mobile, Ala.; Mattie T. Blount) and KyLeigh Richardson (Fruitdale, Ala.).

For the latest on Pearl River Community College athletics, follow us on Twitter (@PRCCAthletics) and Facebook (PRCCAthletics).

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