Our Lady Academy continues to set the standard of excellence for high school volleyball on the Coast.
With the return of reigning Sun Herald player of the year Emma Funk, OLA is favored to win a fifth straight Class I state championship and 11th in school history. OLA, which plays host to Harrison Central in its season-opener on Tuesday, has won more state titles than any school in Mississippi.
High school volleyball on the Coast offically starts Tuesday, but OLA and Vancleave are hosting jamborees on Saturday. Vancleave’s event is called the Shyla VanAlsitine Classic tournament.
Seniors Alia Tayara and Mary Rimmer, a pair of Sun Herald All-South Mississippi performers are also back for the Lady Crescents.
“We are very excited to start the new season,” OLA coach Mike Meyers said. “We worked and played some during the summer, had a great preseason camp and two excellent weeks of hard practice to get ready for the opening matches.
“We have a good squad of returning players. But we have been stung by the injury bug and have several girls who won’t play until later in the season. Right now, we are trying to develop a team chemistry that will allow us to get a good start to the season.”
OLA recently received national recognition. The American Volleyball Coaches honored OLA’s 2015 state championship squad with its Team Academic Award. The award, initiated in 1992, honors collegiate and prep volleyball teams that displayed excellence in the classroom with at least a 3.30 cumulative team grade-point average or a 4.10 cumulative team GPA.
In Class III, Hancock returns key players from its runner-up squad that lost to DeSoto Central. Senior Rylee Swilley and junior Madison Ladner, two Sun Herald All-South Mississippi performers, return for the Lady Hawks.
“We are expecting to be very competitive this year,” Hancock coach Rick Rechtien said. “ We lost two starters from last years State Runner Up Squad and have one still recuperating from an ACL tear and subsequent surgery.”
With juniors Chloe Coulter and Amelia Moore, Ocean Springs has the talent to make a title run. Coulter made the Sun Herald’s All-South Mississippi team last year.
“Even though we have a young team this year, we are showing sparks of greatness that will lead to future success,” Ocean Springs coach Brooke Engle said. “ It is all about a positive mindset and a hard work ethic for us. We are a small team, but together we will reach great heights.”
The Class II is wide open. Vancleave, led by Sun Herald’s All-South Mississippi performer Carly Danley, has the best shot at winning South State.
Sun Herald’s All-South Mississippi performer Natasha Feyjoo is back for Harrison Central.