Defending state champions Our Lady Academy and Hancock remain the top two volleyball teams on the Coast.
With the return of two-reigning Sun Herald Player of the Year Emma Funk, OLA is favored to win a sixth straight Class I state championship and the 12th in school history. OLA has won more state titles than any school in Mississippi.
High school volleyball on the Coast officially starts Monday when Hancock visits Pass Christian.
OLA returns four starters off last year’s title team: seniors Funk, All-South Mississippi performer Hannah Gest, junior Lizzy Mirandy and sophomore Becca Walk. Senior Cassidy Ketchum and junior Margaret Spencer White also expect to play key roles for OLA.
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“We are excited to start a new season,” OLA coach Mike Meyers said. “We lost four outstanding seniors from last year’s squad, and we are trying to place people in the correct places to make up for that loss. To be successful, we will have to have some relatively inexperienced players and/or some very young players step up and play at a very high level.”
Hancock has a shot at winning its second straight Class III state title. The Lady Hawks are led by All-South Mississippi selections Destiny Hariel and Madison Ladner and Catie Ladner.
“We should be pretty good,” Hancock coach Rick Rechtien said. “We lost our All State Middle, Rylee Swilley last year but we have almost everyone back. We had a lot of juniors play. I’m looking forward to a great season.”
Ocean Springs is also a contender with the return of All-South Mississippi selection Chloe Coulter and Amelia Moore. Dwyana Parker, an All-South Mississippi pick, returns for Gulfport.
Vancleave made a run to the Class II Final Four last year and figures to make another title run with the return of All-South Mississippi performer Carly Danley and Sierra Buxton.
Here’s a list of Tuesday’s games: D’Iberville at Bay High; Ocean Springs at East Central; Vancleave at George County; Gulfport at St. Martin; Pascagoula at Resurrection; Gautier at Biloxi; OLA at Oak Grove.