TYLER — The Panola College Fillies and the Tyler Junior College Apaches have gotten quite familiar with each other lately, playing three times in the last 11 days.

Each team took a hard-fought 3-2 win on their home court, setting up the rubber-match Sunday.

However, there was a little more significance to this match.

It was for a bid to the NJCAA National Tournament.

The Fillies took the first set 25-20, only to see the Apaches bounce back to tie it with a 25-22 win. Panola took another 25-20 win in the third, then battled the home team point-for-point down the stretch for a 29-27 win and their fourth trip to the national tournament.

This will be the fourth time the Fillies have qualified for the national tournament, which is in Hutchinson, Kansas, Nov. 21-23.

Top-ranked Navarro College won the Region XIV Tournament on Saturday night, but the Fillies (29-8) got the other berth allotted to the conference.

The 18th-ranked Fillies were the third seed and beat Blinn College to open the tournament, then lost to TJC, 3-2. They beat Laredo 3-1 on Saturday, then beat Lee College 3-0 on Sunday to get its second shot at TJC.

“God is so good,” said Coach Nicole Thorn, who previously coached PC when it made its first trip to the national tournament in 2009. “We won this because we believed in us when no one else did. We knew we’d be here and win it and that’s all that matters.

“This region is tough and every game is a battle and every game’s a fight. It says a lot about the determination of our kids for them to win this.”

The other two appearances at the national tournament were in 2016 and 2017.

“Tyler Junior College is a great team and we had to beat them on their own court,” Thorn said. “But we stayed together, kept the faith and did what we had to do at crunch time.

“It’s an intense environment at the tournament from the start to the very last game. That’s the nature of the beast and that’s what makes God so good.”

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