LINTON – Clint Jordan, sensing his Tupelo Lady Wave was on the brink of losing, came up with the right message of encouragement before the deciding game of its state championship volleyball series against Hancock.
“I told them, ‘We haven’t lost a Game 5 this year … Girls, let’s don’t lose a Game 5 today.’
“That seemed to calm them down.”
The Lady Wave responded to capture the fifth game, 15-11, and defeated a determined Hancock club 3-2 Saturday at Mississippi College’s A.E. Wood Coliseum to win the MHSAA’s first Class III state championship.
Rachel Farmer’s block of a kill attempt by Hancock’s Erin Ross end the match and gave Tupelo its championship trophy.
The state title was the program’s third and its first since a Class II win in 2003. It was the first for Jordan, who is his third season.
“This was a great feat,” Jordan said. “We came down here with no seniors and performed the way we did.”
Tupelo (24-9), behind the strong play of 6-foot-2 freshman middle blocker Hannah Farmer, and her 6-foot sister, Rachel, won the first two games 25-20 and 25-19.
The Lady Wave looked poised to make it a three-game sweep in the title match when it raced to a 9-3 advantage on three shots by the third Farmer sister, 6-foot Sarah, and two kills by Rachel Farmer.
“We got too relaxed,” Hannah Farmer said. “We got overconfident.”
Hancock (26-6), which had not lost a match to a Mississippi team this season, rallied to win the third and fourth games, 25-17 and 25-15, against the stunned Lady Wave.
“I thought we lost complete control,” Jordan said. “They gained the momentum and absolutely destroyed us.
“I told my players that they deserved to win. They had worked too hard. In Game 5, we won because they were playing for each other.”
Tupelo reached the finals with a 3-0 win against rival Olive Branch in the semifinals by scores of 25-23, 28-26 and 25-17.
Olive Branch’s hard-hitting Alison Welch was never a factor even though she recorded nine kills.
Hannah Farmer scored six kills and recorded four blocks to pace Tupelo. Rachel Farmer added five kills and recorded a block.
Hancock reached the championship with a 3-0 victory against Northwest Rankin (25-4, 25-8, 25-7).
Lafayette County was eliminated in the Class I semifinals, 3-0, by Center Hill.
The Mustangs defeated the Lady Commodores 25-14, 25-20 and 25-6 behind the play of Ashley Saunders, who registered 25 kills.
Our Lady Academy beat Center Hill 3-1 in the Class I final by scores of 25-18, 25-17, 16-25 and 25-21.
Lake Cormorant won the Class II championship with a 3-0 win against Long Beach (25-23, 25-22, 25-19).
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal