PRCC volleyball’s Coast bond driving monumental third season
POPLARVILLE, Miss. (WLOX) - In 2019, the Pearl River volleyball program played its first official season.
Just three years later, the Wildcats are on the short-list of the country’s top teams. Led by eight South Mississippi products, Pearl River earned its first-ever national ranking this week, checking in at number 19.
“Monday at 2 o’clock, we started checking. I wasn’t with them, so I sent it to them in our group message and they were so excited,” head coach Haley Chatham said.
“It was so awesome,” freshman Sydney Salter (Vancleave) said.
“I was so excited. We worked so hard to get there,” freshman Payton McKerchie (Vancleave) said.
“It’s surreal. It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve felt in a while,” freshman Hannah Burks (Vancleave) said.
Chatham has been with the program since day one, but with some of her players for much longer. Before becoming Pearl River’s first head coach, she won a pair of state titles at Vancleave, coaching four Bulldogs-turned-Wildcats along the way.
“I’ve had a relationship with these girls, and they came in, most of them knowing what to expect and the standard they would be held to. And they just reached it,” Chatham said.
“It’s been so nice to have her with me throughout my whole time,” Salter said. “It’s more than I could have imagined.”
“From high school to now, it’s an easy fit. You fall in and already know how everything is going to work,” freshman Julianah Overstreet (Vancleave) said.
Having familiar faces by your side is a bond difficult to replicate.
“It’s meant a lot to me, I’m glad to have her by my side,” Burks said. “She’s a great teammate, awesome on the court, and it’s relieving to know she’s out there with me.”
But the connection that starts with Coast natives spreads to each and every member of the team, whose hometowns stretch from west of New Orleans, all the way to the eastern coast of Florida.
“They’ve definitely left a lasting impression on my life, and I think this program is amazing and I’m very grateful to be a part of it,” McKerchie said.
It’s been a steady climb for the Wildcats, who nearly doubled their first-year win total in year number two. But in the monumental year three, it’s that unique bond that’s helped propel them into unprecedented heights.
“This group decided to take care of each other, play for each other, lift each other up. If someone is having a bad day or is down, they give them lots of grace,” Chatham said. “That has been the difference-maker this year. The whole team has decided ‘we’re going to do whatever it takes, and we’re going to do it for each other.’”
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