Hancock County is the centerpiece of high school volleyball excellence on the Coast. Our Lady Academy has won a Mississippi-record 10 state volleyball championships. Hancock High captured its only state volleyball crown a decade ago, but has reached three straight Finals.
OLA and Hancock swept the Sun Herald's individual volleyball honors. OLA's Emma Funk earned Sun Herald player of the year honors. Hancock coach Rick Rechtien is the Sun Herald's coach of the year.
Funk is the first sophomore to earn player of the year. Before the season began, Funk wondered how she'd fit in with the rebuilding Lady Crescents.
"It was a little pressure, but when you play volleyball at OLA, you're expected to do well," Funk said. "Coach Mike Meyers does a great job of preparing players for success. I'm proud to be part of another championship run."
Funk had 650 kills, 145 service points, 623 service receptions, 55 blocks and 49 digs this season. She's on track to become the next Lady Crescents' standout volleyball player.
"I'm proud of how OLA has developed our volleyball program," Funk said. "I'm excited about the years to come for us."
OLA coach Mike Meyers wasn't surprised at Funk's success.
"Emma is not only a very dominant offensive player, but she also is an excellent passer and plays very strong defense," Meyers said. "She has worked hard to become a good player, and I am proud of her for her success."
Rechtien has a connection to OLA, serving as Meyers' assistant coach for six years before heading over to Hancock. In Rechtien's first year as coach, he guided the Lady Hawks to the Class III state finals. Hancock has earned three straight trips to the finals, including two under David Irwin. The Lady Hawks won their only state crown in 2010.
"We embrace high expectations," Rechtien said. "We expect to compete for state championships every year. We fell a game short this year. Our run to the state finals was surprising because we lost a lot of players from last year."
Rechtien has a simple formula for the Lady Hawks' successful run.
"The girls have been consistent and they're dedicated to the sport," Rechtien said.