SPRINGFIELD – It’s safe to say the return of Shelby Prest has given the Denham Springs High volleyball team a boost.

Throw in an effective service game, and that created some problems for Springfield.

Denham Springs collected 16 aces in scoring a 25-22, 25-16, 25-21 sweep of the Lady Bulldogs on Thursday.

“Shelby is our team leader,” DSHS coach Pam Dubuy said after her team notched its fourth straight win to move to 4-9. “We did have a little meeting last weekend about what kind of things are happening. They admitted that my absence (because of breast cancer surgery) they kind of took advantage of it. They’re realizing that every position is open … they can be replaced, and they’re learning to fight for their positions. I think they’re stepping up their game a little bit.”

Prest, who had four aces and two kills, got Denham Springs started with a pair of aces to key a 7-1 run to open the match.

“They had some aggressive serves and our serve-receive was not one of our strong points,” said Springfield coach Miranda Lobell, whose team dropped to 3-5 after putting up nine aces. “It has been good, and I let off on them just a little bit as far as practicing on it and everything, and really do regret that decision because we lacked on serve-receive and we also lacked on serves. Where they had their serves hitting and were really aggressive, we missed way too many serves.”

Consecutive aces by Sydni Mayo extended the lead to 10-3 before Springfield’s Rachael Wheat put together three straight aces to cut the lead to 10-8.

DSHS at Springfield VB Peyton Watson

Denham Springs High's Peyton Watson (4) finishes at the net.

“This is my best game back so far, by far,” said Prest, who missed time with a concussion before returning to tournament play over the weekend. “I was way into this game. I wasn’t really hesitant. In my past games, I was kind of playing a little timid because I didn’t want to fall and hit my head, but this game was certainly my best game back.

“I think everybody was serving consistent and not hard,” Prest continued. “They weren’t serving to ace. They were serving smart.”

Springfield got as close as 11-10 and trailed by two on seven occasions – the last time at 24-22 – before Anna Barnum’s service error closed out the first set.

Denham Springs broke a 2-2 tie early in the second set, scoring three straight points with Sophie Faircloth serving to take an 8-3 lead. Springfield battled back as a pair of points with Wheat serving, including an ace, cut the lead to 9-8.

From there, Denham’s Kailey Dunham, who had eight kills and two aces, scored an ace to start a run which put DSHS up 15-10 when the ball dropped in between Springfield defenders.

Lobell said the Lady Bulldogs, who were led by Tabby Lobell’s nine kills and 10 assists, are still working to find a lineup that works best.

“Our girls that played last year, we had a more mature team,” Lobell said. “They were used to not relying so much on communication, but relying more on just knowing the girls around them. They’ve kind of gotten in the rut of forgetting how to communicate, and then the younger girls are still learning the importance of communication, so we kind of have both ends of the spectrum there. We’re trying to meet somewhere in the middle.”

Springfield got as close as 15-11 before Denham recorded four aces during a burst to close out the second set. Mayo, who had six kills, had an ace, and Oliva Alexander had consecutive ones to push the lead to 23-14 before Dunham’s ace closed out the set.

Prest had a pair of aces to snap a 1-1 tie and put the Lady Jackets up 6-1 in the third set.

“I definitely think that I have so much energy, and I bring a lot of that energy to the team,” said Prest. “It seems like when I’m there, we all bond so much better and play so much better together because there’s that one person that when we get down in a funk, we have that one person that can bring us back.”

With Haley Austin serving, the Lady Bulldogs scored three straight points during a run which cut the lead to 7-6.

An ace by Wheat made the score 9-8 before Alexander took over with three aces during a burst which put DSHS up 17-9.

DSHS at Springfield VB Miranda Lobell

Springfield coach Miranda Lobell calls out instructions to her players from the sideline.

“Our bench was really cheering us on the whole time, and I just really wanted to make everyone proud, especially our coach,” said Alexander, who finished with five aces. “She’s been through so much with her breast cancer and everything. I just want to have a winning season for her and make it to the playoffs, so I’ve been trying to dig deep and really try my best to make this season fun for her.”

An ace by Austin was part of a run that got Springfield within 24-21, but Peyton Watson’s kill ended the match.

“I want them to work more on finishing the game if they have a lead like that and just be able to finish it instead of lay on their heels and let somebody try to take it from them,” Duby said.

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