BAY ST. LOUIS -- The gym at Our lady Academy was filled with students Tuesday morning.
The sounds of the British rock band Queen's ubiquitous anthem "We Are The Champions" started to fade away as OLA Crescents volleyball coach Mike Meyers walked to the center of the gymnasium.
After a student-led prayer and the required patriotic pleasantries, Meyers commanded the room's attention. As he picked up the medium-sized trophy with a golden volleyball in its center, the silence in the building was deafening.
"This is not the volleyball team's trophy," Meyers said. "This is OLA's trophy. This is your trophy."
As the roar of the students filled every inch of air in the building, Meyers smiled. The Crescent's season had ended. And Meyers had once again taken them to the top of Class I high school volleyball.
Meyers has coached at OLA for 16 years and in those 16 years, he has won 10 state titles.
The Crescents defeated St. Andrew's Episcopal of Ridgeland Saturday in Jackson 3-1 in the Class I state championship match.
"We lost the first set to St. Andrews," Mary Rimmer, who, along with Emma Funk, was OLA's co-leading scorer for the season. "We had to regroup after the loss and then we won the next three matches."
Although the Crescents went undefeated in division play, it wasn't an easy run as it meant they had to face their arch rivals Resurrection Catholic School of Pascagoula twice in division play and again in the south state championship game.
After falling behind to RCS in the south title match, the Crescents rallied to win the next three sets and the bragging rights.
"The Resurrection match for south state was intense," Rimmer said. "I remember that match the most of any of the matches we played."
A young team
Rimmer, a junior, and Funk, a sophomore, led the Crescents all season in service points and kills. They were the only returning players from last year's championship team.
With a team filled with new players, Meyers said the first part of the season was a bit challenging.
"We struggled for about four weeks and we lost some matches we didn't feel like we should have lost," he said. "But we made a concerted effort to make certain things better and from that time in the season, we improved each match that we played. You could tell that they were buying into it and that they felt they could go all the way."
Rimmer and Funk were placed into leadership roles on the team and soon the Crescents started to win some important matches.
"We wanted to make it through division play undefeated," Funk said. "We were able to do that. We really started to gel when we started playing division games. But at the beginning of the season and especially during our summer practices, it was hard. We didn't think we were going to make it this far."
On to the next match
With the state trophy safely back at OLA, some members of the team will move on to other sports such as basketball and many will continue to play club volleyball to stay in shape and practice their skills.
But for Meyers, the next season is on its way.
"I'll watch the girls play club ball and monitor their performances," he said. "But we won't really get going until the summer. I'll go watch club ball at other schools and in other states. There's a lot of new material online. I'll spend the off season looking at things."