THE THRILL OF VICTORY

in Volleyball

Posting their first winning record in 42 years, Class 2A Meridian Lady Jackets win back-to-back matches at Covington Tournament

MERIDIAN – They say winning isn’t everything, but it sure feels good. Just ask the Meridian Lady Jacket volleyball team. For the first time in 42 years, the Lady Jackets walked off the court with a winning record by winning back-to-back matches over Mount Calm and Morgan in the Covington Tournament Aug. 14.

“The girls are thrilled to have a winning record,” Meridian volleyball head coach Lauren Cartwright said after the tournament. “As a coach, it’s encouraging to see them inspired and excited to play. We have seen vast improvements in the past two weeks, and I expect that to continue throughout our season.”

Unable to maintain the momentum, the Lady Jackets (2-2) dropped a hard-fought match against Penelope in straight sets, 25-22, 25-17, 25-16 at home last Tuesday. Sophomore Eve Dirkse led Meridian with two kills and 16 service receptions.

“The girls played a great game against Penelope,” Cartwright said. “We have key goals for each game and focus on specific measurable skills. They are a young team, having only played volleyball for one year, but they are doing a stand out job. This week, we will continue to work on hitter coverage and consistency with our serving.

“I’m proud of the girls’ mental endurance and focus during the games. They fought for every point, and that’s not an easy thing to do in volleyball. You can get down on yourself quickly due to the direct relation between your mistakes and the score. I tell them every week, the W or the L is not the most important thing in my book. What’s most important is if we do our best. At the end of the day, I believe that was the case against Penelope.”

Due to some changes in the schedule, Meridian did not play over the weekend, but will resume play traveling to Italy for a non-district matchup Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. before playing in the Valley Mills Tournament Aug. 26 & 28.

“Our schedule has been changing significantly over the last two weeks,” Cartwright said. “Unfortunately, I have no control over the changes. The majority are coming from our opponents.”

In Meridian’s season-opener Aug. 10 in Yellowjacket Gymnasium, the young Lady Jackets proved no match for an experienced Bruceville-Eddy squad as the Lady Eagles swept Meridian in straight sets, 25-12, 25-13, 25-12. Dirkse led the Lady Jackets with eight kills, followed by sophomore Hope Cabrera with six and sophomore Canyon Stauffer with four, while senior America Ramirez uncorked three service aces.

“With every game we’ve seen marked improvement,” Cartwright said. “I’m proud of the girls for battling every volley.

In the Covington Tournament, the Lady Jackets won a thrilling 25-22, 23-25, 15-13 victory over Mount Calm as senior Mackenzie Lane led Meridian with six kills. Dirkse delivered three service aces and a block, while Stauffer led the Lady Jackets with 10 service receptions, followed by junior Abigail Lucas with nine.

“The Covington Tournament proved to be a useful tool to work on our team dynamics and solidify the foundational concepts our players are learning through repetition and game time,” Cartwright said. “We participated in a series of quick pool play games. These rolling games assisted our team in working on mental focus and endurance.

“With a young program, our muscle memory isn’t there yet. So, the girls are learning to play each point with intentionality, while focusing on the little things that make a big difference.”

Winning their second straight match, the Lady Jackets shook off losing the first set to Morgan to win in dramatic fashion, 26-28, 25-23, 15-5, as Cabrera, Dirkse and Lane led Meridian with two kills apiece. Ramirez delivered two service aces, while Stauffer led with 14 service receptions, followed by Dirkse with nine as well as Lucas and Lane with five each.

“The important thing is, the girls are learning to actually play volleyball,” Cartwright said. “We aren’t waiting for other teams to make the mistakes. We are running our own plays and not cutting any corners on fundamentals. With a young program, it can be tempting to encourage them to just get the ball over. However, my vision is for the long term betterment of the athletes and program.

“This week, we are continuing to focus on taking things to the next level by doing all the small things right. At the end of the day, those fundamentals are what makes are breaks a program.”

Photos by WENDY OROZCO

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