By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – This season marks the 10th anniversary of Tupelo High School’s first of three state championships in volleyball.
Lady Wave first-year coach Laurie Bishop, whose 2011 team is considered one of the favorites to win a state title, was a member of that 2001 squad.
“Definitely, there’s pressure,” said Bishop, who replaced Clint Jordan, whose 2009 and 2010 teams played for a state title, winning in ’09. “We’re going to focus on the match today and work our way up the ladder.
“Tupelo volleyball has made a name for itself. That drives us to live up to that, to play well and win.”
Bishop returns some key players off last season’s team that finished 34-6 and lost 3-2 to Hancock in the MHSAA Class 3 state championship match.
One of those is 6-foot-3 shot-blocking middle blocker Hannah Farmer. She is joined by her sister, middle blocker Sarah Farmer, setter Brena Medcalf and outside hitter Camille Walker.
Sarah Farmer and Medcalf, both seniors, played in this summer’s Mississippi Association of Coaches all-star game.
“I’ve been working really hard,” Hannah Farmer said. “I think I’ll be a lot better player this year.”
Farmer, who can expect to see defenses designed to stop her, is used to drawing attention because of her height and ability.
“I had a team once try a triple-team. I was still able to tip the ball in,” she said, then smiled. “I usually don’t have a lot of trouble with double-teams because my arms are so long.”
Newcomer Kelsey Burnis, an outside hitter who is a transfer from Wake Forest, N.C., gives THS some added firepower.
“We’re working her into the rotation,” Bishop said.
The coach said she believes the team’s experience in the postseason and success on the court – 58-15 the last two seasons – enhances its chances of returning to the state playoffs.
“We’ve got experience, height and net defense,” Bishop said. “We also serve well and communicate well.
“The key for us is we have to mesh on and off the court.”
Sarah Farmer has seen a lot of “good communication” during the team’s summer workouts and matches.
“Our overall vibe on the court is good,” she said. “I think we’re playing well together.”
THS opens its season Aug. 5-6 at a tournament in Madison. The Lady Wave’s home opener is a tri-match against Lafayette and Caledonia on Aug. 9.