On the Verge of a Big Step Forward By Elliot Reeder,

After an up-and-down and injury-riddled start to the season, the Mississippi College Volleyball team feels they are on the verge of taking a big step forward. First year Head Coach Shawna Laurendine said, “I’m really looking forward to having everybody healthy, and seeing what we can actually do once we get everybody healthy, and have some depth in some positions, and challenging the teams in our conference. We’re going to surprise some people in the 2nd half.”

An incredibly young Choctaws team has gotten some big playing time from numerous freshman including Jamie Boros, Kendall Platt, Lexie Laurendine, Rylee Markham and Gwenyth Prenter. Junior Julia Martin says that at first most of the freshman were shy, but they quickly stepped out of their shyness due to how many of them there were and how important they were going to be to the team.

Over half of MC’s roster is made up of freshmen, and another 26% of the roster is made up of sophomores. The young Choctaws roster is continuing to improve every day. Martin went on to say that the team has focused on some fundamentals and that “each day we get out and perform the best we can.” Lexie Laurendine says that she feels her and her fellow freshmen are working on not having a freshman mentality, and working to play like they have been in the program for just as long as everybody else.

With such a young roster, the Choctaws have relied on some crucial leadership from players such as senior co-captain and libero Jill Brown, junior co-captain Shelby Grace Mays (who is expected back soon from an injury), and sophomore Brandi Bundy. Martin, who was also mentioned as a leader, spoke to how important a period this past spring, when only the handful of returning players were around, has been to building the camaraderie between the returners that was then passed on to the freshmen when they arrived.

The squad has worked hard on keeping the tempo and energy up in practice, even in the middle of a grueling season. Coach Laurendine said, “We’ve worked really hard, the girls are improving every day.” She also mentioned how important good practice is after tough losses. Freshman Lexie Laurendine said, “When we first come in, we try to have positive and consistent enthusiasm throughout the day.”

Martin and both Laurendines spoke to how important communication has been to the team throughout the first half of the season. Martin also talked about the connection the team has worked on though drills throughout the different positions and different experience levels.

The Lady Choctaws currently have a 7-9 record about halfway through the season. They have a road trip to Georgia (to play Valdosta State and West Georgia) scheduled on September 28th and 29th. They then return back to AE Wood Coliseum for a big GSC home stand that starts October 2nd against West Alabama. The home stand includes matches against Alabama-Huntsville and the Crohn’s Awareness game against Montevallo on Saturday October 6th.

Lexie Laurendine spoke about a mantra the team has called “finish empty.” This refers to leaving all of their energy and effort on the court and finishing with an empty tank. If the Lady Choctaws get some players back from injury, get continued development from their youngsters and buy into finishing empty, then they really could turn their season around and surprise the GSC in the 2nd half of the season.

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