FORT WALTON BEACH – WHAT. A. COMEBACK.
Choctaw, two weeks after losing a five-set heartbreaker at home to rival Fort Walton Beach, trailed the Vikings 2-0 on the road after 25-21, 25-19 losses.
Then something clicked. In a big way.
The Indians (9-5, 4-2 District 1-5A) answered with 25-10 and 25-16 wins to force a fifth set, where they edged the Vikings (3-4, 2-3) 15-13.
“I think the two early sets, we didn’t execute a lot of things and we didn’t communicate well,” Choctaw coach Jamie Kerrell said. “I think the girls were playing a little tight. But after that second set, we dug down, worked hard and talked.
“I told them, ‘Hey, get out there and have fun and play loose and rely on your fundamentals.’ The attitude changed and they played to win instead of playing not to lose.”
Set up by Alaina Birr and Alexa Hull, Madden Legg’s 12 kills paced the Indians and Jaden Lindner added 10 kills. Burr had a team-best 23 assists and Hill delivered 17 assists. Hull and Belanna Torres each added a team-best six aces and six digs, the latter matching Lauren Werley.
Kerrell said the previous loss at the TeePee motivated his girls.
“Anytime you can beat your rival, that’s a big deal,” he said. “The girls, they compete with these Fort Walton Beach girls at the club level, so there’s a lot of competition there. But you could sense they wanted a bit of redemption there.”
Pacing the Vikings was Sarah Duckett’s 12 kills and five blocks, Carsyn Tillman’s 22 assists and five aces and Jazyah Jarboe-Alford’s 12 digs. Anna Knowles added nine kills, Jarboe-Alford chipped in eight kills, Harmoni Carswell had eight assists and Madison Ballard delivered 10 digs.
While the Vikings travel to Booker T. Washington on Tuesday, Choctaw hosts Escambia Tuesday before welcoming North Bay Haven, Navarre, Fort Walton Beach, Wakulla, Arnold, Milton and possibly Freeport next weekend for a tournament at the TeePee.
“Hopefully we can carry the momentum over and bring home a district title,” Kerrell said.