Area volleyball looks for another promising season
By Joseph W. Gex, II
Aug 4, 2017, 18:20
With the start of school comes the start of volleyball season. All three teams - Bay High School, Hancock High School and Our Lady Academy - had standout seasons in 2016 and they are expecting nothing less this season.
The Bay High Lady Tigers advanced to the Class II state playoffs in 2016 after finishing 9-10 and 5-3 in their division last year.
Bay High alum Kellie Smith returns to lead this year's squad.
The Lady Tigers return two seniors and a junior who saw extensive action as starters last season.
Smith commented, "We are looking forward to a great year. We have seniors T'Mea Booth and Taylor Bonvillion and junior YaYa Singleton returning to lead the varsity squad this year. The team really seems to mesh well this year and our experienced girls are really taking on that role as leaders. That can really make a difference. This year we are looking to take it one game at a time, work on each win at a time. In the end, we are working to take that district title and advance in the playoffs. We have practiced throughout the summer, as well as, attended USM volleyball team camp where we faced some tough competition from teams out of Alabama and Louisiana."
The Lady Tigers will compete in Division 8-Class II along with Hattiesburg, Pass Christian and West Harrison.
The Lady Tigers won the Class I state title in 2004.
The Hancock Hawks enter the 2017 season as the defending Class III state champion after defeating Oak Grove in five sets last year in the finals.
Hancock sealed the deal in 2016 after advancing to the Class III finals three consecutive years. They ended 2016 as the top ranked team in Mississippi and a record of 36-3.
Head coach Rick Rechtien returns to the bench to guide the Lady Hawks in 2017 and he has several familiar faces on the court this year.
Madison Ladner, who became the first Hancock All-American in the sport last year, returns for her senior campaign.
She is joined by seniors Catie Ladner, Karrington Perkins, Destiny Hariel, Whitney Eakins and Amanda Kay Shubert.
They are joined by juniors Harleigh Lafontaine, Bella Thoennes, Maleah Austin, Chloee Swilley and Lyric Johnson.
The Lady Hawks lost just one senior from 2016 in Rylee Swilley.
Rechtien stated, "We will miss Rylee Swilley in the middle but stepping in to replace her is her younger sister Chloee. The girls have worked extremely hard this off-season and summer and have made progress. We are hoping to be in a situation to compete for a state title again this season. The teams in the north part of the state have improved their game like Brandon and Desoto Central."
Over the summer, Hancock joined a group called Gold Medal Squad that employs a training regimen that mirrors USA Volleyball.
Rechtien ended, "We have focused on defense throughout the summer so we are expecting our defense to be ahead of our offense. But, our offensive game will come along. Early in the season, we will take part in the Set It Off tournament so we will get a glimpse at the strong competition in the north. We are excited for the season to begin and play somebody else."
The Lady Hawks have won state titles in 2010 and 2016 along with eight consecutive division titles. Hancock will compete in Division 8-Class III along with Gulfport, Biloxi and Harrison Central.
The Our Lady Academy Crescents have become the face of Mississippi volleyball over the years.
The Crescents ended 2016 ranked #3 in Mississippi with the Class I state title and a 33-7 record. It was their fifth consecutive state title. The Crescents swept Resurrection in three games for the title.
OLA lost four seniors to graduation in Mary Rimmer, Abby Koons, Alia Tayara and Carsen Cuevas.
However, they return four starters in two-time All-American Emma Funk, Hannah Guest, Lizzie Mirandy and Rebecca Walk along with two letter-winners Margaret Spencer White and Cassidy Ketchum.
OLA head coach Mike Meyers stated, "We lost four outstanding seniors that will be difficult to replace. We do have four starters returning but the key will be if we can fill the spots with our younger inexperienced players to complete our rotation."
Meyers continued, "Our girls have worked very hard over the summer and these first couple weeks of practice. I have been impressed with how hard they have pushed themselves. We are looking forward to the start of the season."
Over the summer, OLA took part in the LSU team camp and came away with the team championship. The team camp title is the third such title in the 15 years that OLA has been attending the LSU camp.
Meyers continued, "Our performance at LSU, is a very good start; however, many of those teams are not the quality of team that we will face in our Mississippi season."
OLA won state titles in 2002-03, 2006-09 and 2012-16 along with 17 consecutive division titles and 14 state final appearances.
The Crescents will compete in Division 8-Class I with Lumberton, Resurrection, St. Patrick and Sacred Heart.
OLA is hosting a jamboree today at 10am with Ocean Springs, Oak Grove and Hancock.
The regular season begins on Tuesday, August 8th with Bay High hosting d'Iberville and OLA traveling to Oak Grove. Hancock is set to host Pass Christian on Monday, August 7th and travel to Madison Central on Friday, August 10th.
Bay High will compete in the Pass Christian tournament on August 12th while Hancock and OLA will travel to Ridgeland to take part in the Set It Off tournament. See you at the games!