By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
CLINTON – Tupelo was staggered on Saturday afternoon, but didn’t fall.
The resilient Lady Wave rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat a determined Ocean Springs team 3-2 for the MHSAA Class III state championship in volleyball at Mississippi College’s A.E. Wood Coliseum.
Tupelo (31-1) had not played a five-game match all season, but the South champion Lady Greyhounds (18-8) rebounded from a 25-8 blowout in the opening game to sweep back-to-back games by 25-17 and 26-24 scores.
The Lady Wave responded with 25-11 and 15-4 victories to claim the program’s second state title in three seasons and its fourth overall.
“We had the great start, then had to come back,” said a relieved Tupelo first-year coach Laurie Bishop, who was a member of the Wave’s 2001 state title team. “That was new territory for us. We’re not used to having to dig our way out.”
Lady Wave senior middle blocker Sarah Farmer, who recorded 12 kills, admitted that she was “so stressed” after the third-game loss.
“I thought, ‘This can’t be it. We can’t go down like this,”’ she said.
Bishop’s pep talk to her squad was brief and to the point following the third game.
“All I could say to them was, ‘That’s not our game,’ ” she said. “Our passing wasn’t there. I told them we had to pull it together and play like we know how to play … and we’ll win.”
Ocean Springs hurt Tupelo with its outside play in the second and third games, but the Lady Wave was able to adjust.
“In the fourth and fifth games we were able to read their hitters better,” Bishop said. “Offensively, we focused on setting the middle, where our power is.”
Tupelo took an 18-4 lead in the first game on two kills and a block by 6-foot-3 Hannah Farmer, who had a team-high 13 kills, and a dominating jump serve by Kelsey Burnis that produced three aces.
Sarah Farmer had seven of her kills in the fourth and fifth games for Tupelo.
“Winning (state) is much sweeter as a coach,” Bishop said. “We had a lot of pressure and expectations on us.”