After Historic Season, Volleyball Raring to Go In 2021 / Jace Aymond
Before the virus-shortened spring season that occurred earlier this year, the Lady Choctaw volleyball team had not produced a winning season since 1994. Although they only played a total of nine matches in the 2020 season, it was one for the record books in multiple ways. The Gulf South Conference implemented a Spring Championship Series for fall sports that could not participate to compete in a shortened spring season to make up for lost time. Almost all MC sports that competed in this temporary new format, such as the soccer teams, had major success. For the Lady Choctaw volleyball team, it was no different.
In that spring season, the team finished with a 7-2 record, only falling to the eventual conference champion, Alabama-Huntsville, in five sets and Montevallo in four sets in the Spring Championship Series semifinal held in Hoover, Alabama. In the entire program’s history, the volleyball team has never made it as far as the semifinals of the conference tournament. Even though they matched up against only half of the conference’s opponents, it was still an incredibly impressive accomplishment for the program.
Junior Kendall Platt spoke on the excitement last season brought, saying, “It was so much fun to be able to go as far as we did last year, and hopefully this year we’ll go even further. But I think that now that we’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like to be there, we all want it that much more and we’re going to work that much harder to get it.”
Out of the entire conference the previous season, the Lady Choctaws allowed the fewest assists, kills, aces, and digs in opponents they faced. They also led the conference in hitting percentage at .256, service aces with 2.2 per set, and third in kills with 13 per set. The team had the greatest number of kills in a single game last season in their match at Union with 73. Lexie Laurendine led the entire conference in service aces with Erin Davis finishing third in digs.
With their historic run last season, the 2021 campaign looks to be bright as the Lady Choctaws only lost two seniors to graduation and return all but one who played in all four sets of the season’s last game against Montevallo. Mississippi College was picked to finish sixth in the preseason GSC poll, and some players received honors from the conference before the season began. Junior Lexie Laurendine was tabbed on the Preseason All-GSC team and freshmen Lydia Paulette and Julia Sumrall were awarded Top Newcomers.
Coach Shauna Laurendine praised her team, saying, “They’re a great group of girls. They’re easy to work with and I don’t even know if I’ve had to raise my voice at them as a coach, which is kind of nice. When I started, I was having to constantly teach the basic skills, and now, we can finally fine-tune things versus having to teach the basics.”
The season has already gotten underway as the Lady Choctaws played their season opener at Arkansas-Monticello. The squad lost in five sets, and although the record sits at 0-1, there is lots to look up for. In fact, in that match, Lexie Laurendine set the program’s Division II record with 47 assists.
Originally, the team was scheduled to participate in the Dakota’s Patriot Classic at the University of Texas-Tyler on Sep. 10-11, but due to Covid issues, they could not make the trip. However, the Lady Choctaws planned to make the trip back to Arkadelphia, Arkansas to compete at the Reddie-Tiger Invitational hosted by Arkansas-Monticello on Sep. 17-18. On day one, they would take on UAM again and Ouachita Baptist. Day two would see them facing off against the Tigers of OBU again as well as Henderson State. Conference play kicked off right after on Sep. 21 at West Alabama, with the season’s home opener on Friday, Sep. 24 against Montevallo.