POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River's Shivers Gymnasium has both literally and figuratively been a construction zone for months. The structure is receiving its final touches, adding new locker rooms and coaches offices upstairs. On the court, head coach Haley Chatham has been hard at work preparing her young Wildcats for their upcoming debut.
The Wildcats officially moved into campus in July to begin summer workouts and have been gradually acclimating to one another ever since. With full practices officially beginning Monday, the Wildcats have ramped up preparation for the season. Through three days, Chatham has been pleased with her team's progress.
"We have had some time to mesh, gel and figure each other out," she said. "We're all from different programs from across the state. We all have learned different ways to play — and teach — volleyball and have really been working on buying into one system. We've really just been focusing on that over and over.
"It's all really coming together."
Wednesday's practice opened with a teaching session from Chatham and included a number of miniature battles to get the team's competitive juices flowing.
"College volleyball is a lot of hard work. High school volleyball is all about fun — it's about winning, but its more relaxed," freshman setter Harleigh LaFontaine (Kiln; Hancock) said. "Here, Coach Chatham is very serious and all about business. We do have fun before and after practices, but once we step on the court it's go-go-go."
Prior to Wednesday's practice, Chatham surprised her team with a uniform reveal. As the Wildcats entered the gymnasium they were greeted by neatly hung maroon and silver uniforms, draped from the center court net, with their equipment bags properly placed in front of their chairs.
The reveal was just the latest step in what's been a long process since last fall when Pearl River announced it was adding the state's first JUCO volleyball program.
"That was a long time coming so that was a huge deal. I think it made things a bit more real for them that in nine days they're going to play the very first volleyball match as a junior college program in the state of Mississippi," Chatham said. "Every time we say that there's a little reverence for that statement. The girls are very excited to be the ones who get to do that.
"We know this is a privilege and that we're blessed every day that we get to come into this gym."
The volleyball squad will officially meet the community Aug. 22 as part of the annual Meet the Wildcat festivities. The Wildcats have two exhibitions coming up, at Southern Union State on Aug. 17 and at William Carey three days later. PRCC will make its historic home debut against Coastal Alabama-East on Aug. 24 at 1 p.m.
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Pearl River Community College
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