By Gene Phelps
Belmont coach Reid Gann knows very little about tonight’s opponent – Lafayette – headed into his team’s second-round MHSAA Class I state volleyball playoff match.
The best-of-five showdown between the host Lady Cardinals (20-5) and Lady Commodores (25-6) begins at 5:30 p.m.
What little Gann does know makes him think the teams are evenly matched.
“I know they have one really good hitter and they’ve beaten some good teams,” he said. “They’re like us and don’t have a lot of height. It’s going to be interesting.”
Lafayette’s top hitter is senior Rae Drewery, who leads her team with 210 kills and 162 service aces.
Belmont’s most consistent player this season has been outside hitter Irene Oppi, an exchange student from Italy. Gann is hoping for the return of setter Tori Powers, the team’s top server. She has been sidelined with an ankle injury.
“She’s been resting it,” he said. “If she plays who won’t be 100 percent.”
Another key player in the Lady Cardinals’ lineup is 5-foot-10 middle blocker Katelyn Nunley. She’s the lone player in the lineup with height.
“We try to match her up with the other team’s best hitter,” Gann said. “She is the only player we have who can get above the net and challenge them.”
Three other area teams – H.W. Byers, Ripley and Tishomingo County – play second-round matches today in Class I.
H.W. Byers, a 3-2 winner against Aberdeen in Saturday’s opening round, visits Cleveland at 6 p.m.
Ripley, which beat Williams-Sullivan 3-0 on Saturday, plays at Caledonia at 5 p.m. The win was a first for the Lady Tigers program in the state playoffs.
Tishomingo County, which beat Velma Jackson 3-0, travels to Senatobia for a 5:30 p.m. match.