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Starkville High head volleyball coach Lauren Love knew her club was facing plenty of uncertainty coming into SHS's first home match of the season on Monday.
Yet, through it all, the Lady Yellowjackets more than answered the bell.
Facing a brand new volleyball program that included a former teammate, and playing on the floor of the Starkville Sportsplex Gym while an air conditioning system is installed at their traditional home, the Lady Jackets surged to a win in straight sets (25-21, 25-12, 25-10) over Heritage Academy.
"We came out a little timid, a little hesitant," said Love. "But we were able to keep our focus because we did have a number of new factors. Everything was different and everyone was a little excited so I'm glad we were able to finish strong."
The win moved the Lady Jackets to 3-3 overall for the season and also spoiled the return of former SHS starter Elizabeth Scott to Starkville.
Scott, an outside hitter for the Lady Jackets last season, transferred to Heritage prior to this year.
The senior said it was quite an experience for her to play against her former teammates.
"It's so weird," said Scott. "But I enjoyed it. I miss playing with them, but it was fun to come back, see everybody and play against them."
Even with Scott, the first-year Lady Patriots couldn't overcome Starkville.
While Heritage (0-1) did hang tough during a tight first set and jump out to a quick 4-0 lead in the second set, Starkville was able to roll the rest of the way.
The Lady Jackets battled back from their second-set deficit to tie the match 9-9, then rolled off a 16-3 run to go up two sets to none.
SHS followed by cruising to the match win in the third set.
Love was impressed with her team's ability to improve as the match progressed.
"Our ball movement got better because our body mechanics and movement overall got better," said Love. "We have a tendency sometimes to stand up a little too much, but we actually got down low and got to our positions and our floor and court movement improved."
Starkville was led to victory thanks in large part to the efforts of Khristian Carr and April Reese, who each tallied six kills for the night.
Grace Drumheller led Starkville with nine digs.
Wheeler Richardson added 14 assists, seven digs, four kills and three aces for SHS, while Michaela Mills had four kills to help ensure Heritage didn't notch the program's initial win.
Despite that fact, Heritage coach Liz Fields said she was proud of how her team responded in the face of competition.
"I am pleasantly surprised with how the girls played," said Fields. "I really wasn't knowing what to expect because it was our first game. We hadn't even done a scrimmage with another team all summer. So I was just really happy with how we played."
Heritage assistant coach Liz Byrne, who said Monday's match was actually the first match that many of the Heritage players had ever participated in, was also impressed.
"A lot of these girls are brand new to the sport, so we're still working on some basics like how to make a substitution and serving lines," said Byrne. "But the girls did great for their first day and we just need to work on cutting down on some mistakes."
Helping Heritage along in the growing process is the veteran Scott.
"All the girls have been working so hard," said Scott. "We have a bunch of good athletes, so hopefully, it'll keep getting better."
Even after facing them on Monday, Love says she wishes success for Scott and the Heritage program as they continue to build.
"(Monday) was a great way to start our home schedule, to have (Scott) back, and hopefully it was a great way for (Heritage) to start their program," said Love.
With Heritage behind them, SHS now turns its attention to a 6:30 p.m. Thursday match at Corinth.
Love, whose Lady Jackets have won three of their last four matches, hope to keep up their winning ways in Corinth.
"Corinth is always scrappy and always tough," said Love. "A long bus ride, but we're looking forward to a good match."