Tupelo's Sarah Farmer named state’s top volleyball player

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Sarah Farmer wasn’t supposed to play in Tupelo High School’s Aug. 30 home volleyball match against division rival Southaven.
The Lady Wave’s 6-foot senior middle blocker, who had suffered an ankle injury in a tournament the weekend before, was supposed to have some time off. Her healing period lasted one game of the best-of-five match.
“After we lost that first game (26-24), we felt like we had to make a decision to put her in,” Tupelo coach Laurie Bishop said. “We hoped we wouldn’t need her. We needed her presence on the court in such a pivotal match.”
An ailing Farmer rallied the Lady Wave to 25-16, 25-11 and 25-17 wins to claim a 3-1 match victory against the Chargers.
Her ankle was sore, but winning made it feel a lot better.
“I don’t think my ankle was ready, but I played through it,” she said. “I didn’t want us to lose that game.”
Farmer, who this week was named Mississippi’s 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year, went on to lead Tupelo to a 31-1 record and a Class III state championship, the Lady Wave’s second in three seasons.
She finished her final season with 232 kills, 77 assists, 46 blocks and 30 aces. Her 80.8 kill percentage was the second best in the state behind her sister, 6-3 junior middle blocker Hannah Farmer.
“She is the typical all-around player,” Bishop said. “When we need her in the full rotation, she can play the front and back court equally well. She was the voice of this team, on and off the court.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year program, now in its 27th year, recognizes athletes from the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states. The winners are selected not only for athletic excellence, but for academic achievement and for exhibiting exemplary character on and off the court.
“I’m really excited to receive this,” Farmer said. “I know how competitive it is. I was really surprised.”
Last season’s team lost in the state finals after winning a state title in 2009, so the expectations were high for another deep run, even with a new coach – Bishop.
“We didn’t know what to expect from Coach Bishop,” Farmer said. “She changed a lot about our attitude. The year before we lost because we didn’t talk and play together.
“We had high expectations this year, but we never thought we’d go 31-1. It was fun to get that ring.”
gene.phelps@journalinc.com