Vancleave High is the latest Coast volleyball team to win a state championship. Behind prep All-American Emma Funk, Our Lady Academy added another championship to its trophy case.
For those accomplishments, Funk is named Sun Herald volleyball player of the year for a third straight season. Vancleave’s Haley Chatham is named the Sun Herald volleyball coach of the year.
“We were so close to winning a state title last year,” Chatham said. “We set winning a state championship in our sights in June. We also set team goals and individual goals.”
Funk is the Sun Herald’s first three-time volleyball player of the year, setting a standard of excellence that won’t be topped for a while. As a senior, Funk had 630 kills, 113 blocks, 311 digs, 324 service receives and 65 aces.
“The state championship expectations can be overwhelming if you think too much about it,” Funk said. “Playing at OLA shaped me into becoming a better person and teammate. Playing volleyball gave me so many memories and friends. It also taught me discipline and hard work.”
OLA coach Mike Meyers appreciated how winning state championships never changed Funk, who recently signed with Trinity University based out of San Antonio. She has a 4.2 GPA and made 32 on the ACT.
“Emma is certainly the most decorated player in OLA history and as the awards came in, it did not change her focus one bit,” Meyers said. “The team's goals and her teammates always came first. She is a very special player, and we will miss her very much. Emma is the total player.
“Since Emma started with us in the seventh grade, she has always worked just as hard or harder than anyone else in practice. She has an amazing vertical jump, and, when needed, it seems that she can hang in midair until she makes the play. She is the most dominant net player, both offensively and defensively, that I have seen in my coaching career. As Emma matured, she also became a very effective back row passer.”
It took only four seasons for Chatham to deliver the school’s first-ever state championship in any sport. Chatham has an impressive 86-38 record that also includes three Region championships and two Final Four trips.
“Winning a state title is extra special for me as a VHS alum,” Chatham said. “I couldn't be more proud of for our school, our program and especially our kids. Vancleave always had a good volleyball foundation. Each of the four years I have been here, we've raised the bar little by little. Our goal has always been to be our very best, no matter what. This year, these kids did exactly that. Not only did they show up and sacrifice, they learned how to be their best in every situation they faced.”