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South rallies, drops East in Three Rivers action

Jeff Birchfield • Sep 20, 2019 at 2:50 AM

BLUFF CITY — Down by five points in a decisive fifth game, Sullivan South rallied for a 3-2 win over Sullivan East in Three Rivers Conference volleyball action Thursday night at the Dyer Dome.

Trailing 7-2, the Lady Rebels reeled off eight straight points. A few minutes later, Suzie Chatman smashed a return at the net for the final point in a 25-12, 21-25, 25-23, 17-25, 15-11 victory.

Chatman was a force in the middle with seven kills and six blocks. She wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to put the match away.

“I knew it was coming,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is my time to shine.’ I just slapped it.”

It was also Abbey Jayne’s time to shine. She put up big numbers with 24 kills and 11 digs. Katie Watson had 14 kills. Olivia Delung posted 23 assists and 11 digs, and Makkenzie Compton had 23 assists and seven digs.

With her team down, South coach Wendy Ratliff didn’t conjure up a fire and brimstone speech. Instead, she remained calm and told her team to do the same and take care of business.

“Honestly, we were hanging on by a thread,” Ratliff said. “It was like, ‘Don’t get down and don’t play too tight.’ Really, we’re a lot better when we’re relaxed. It’s hard to tell somebody that at that time.”

Sullivan East was without middle blocker Riley Nelson, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury last Wednesday. The match’s outlook appeared grim after the first game, but the Lady Patriots took control to win the second game. They had control in the third game as well as the final one before South rallied to win each.

Lady Patriots coach Tracy Graybeal was proud of the way her team responded after getting down early.

Gracey Byrd had 12 kills, Zoe Johnson added 11 kills with six digs, and Avery Johnson and Hayley Grubb each had 10 kills. Ashton Adkins totaled 44 assists, 10 digs and five kills. Hannah Hodge ended with nine digs and seven kills.

In recent losses, Graybeal hadn’t liked her team’s performance, and she was concerned after the way South started Thursday.

“We come out tonight (in) the first set and I’m like, ‘We’ve got to find something.’ To their credit, I’ve flipped a ton of things since we lost Riley. I was trying to find something that was going to work,” the coach said. “Ashton Adkins played really well tonight. Gracey Byrd had a good night and Zoe Johnson had a great night blocking. Nobody played poorly tonight. We just have to learn to finish it.”

On the other side, Ratliff was happy her team was able to finish. Molly Williams led South with 15 digs. Braylee Calton and McKenzie Littleton each added nine.

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