TAKING THE NEXT STEP

in Volleyball

After lying dormant for 41 years, Meridian Lady Jacket volleyball program advances to Class 2A playoffs for second straight season

MERIDIAN – Qualifying for the Class 2A postseason for the second straight season after rebooting the volleyball program in 2020, the Meridian Lady Jackets took the next step in re-establishing its program to past glory in 2021.

Wrapping up the District 11-2A regular season last Saturday, the Lady Jackets snapped a five-match losing streak to knock off the Bluff Dale Lady Bobcats for the second time this season, 25-17, 25-19, 22-25, 25-17, and secure a spot in the Class 2A playoffs.

“I am beyond proud of our girls,” Meridian volleyball first-year head coach Lauren Cartwright said. “They have overcome so much this season. We have heard comments from other teams about their vast improvement, even the officials are impressed with all they have learned and been able to accomplish in such a short time.”

With an open date on Friday, the Lady Jackets celebrated the close to a solid season for the Meridian junior varsity team with the Annual Meridian vs. Meridian game.

“Our seniors coached their underclassmen team,” Cartwright said. “It was a fun night of celebration.”

Now, the Lady Jackets (3-9 in district, 6-18 overall) will turn their attention to facing the Class 2A’s top-ranked and defending state champion Crawford Lady Pirates (37-6) in a Bi-District playoff matchup on Monday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. AT Valley Mills High School.

But for the young and inexperienced Lady Jacket squad, it wasn’t easy along the way.

Before losing to playoff-bound Tolar in straight sets last Tuesday, Meridian honored the seniors prior to the Three Way rematch at Yellowjacket Gymnasium Oct. 12. The Lady Jackets split the first two sets with Three Way before coming up just short in the third and ultimately succumbing to the Lady Indians in four, 25-17, 20-25, 25-23, 25-15. In the process, Three Way avenged a heartbreaking five-set loss to the Lady Jackets in the first round of district.

Then on Oct. 16, the playoff-bound Hico Lady Tigers swept past the Lady Jackets, 25-10, 25-15, 25-16.

“Moving forward, our focus is finish strong,” Cartwright said. “We began our season, eager to play and students came with a competitive nature we hadn’t seen in our program before. Winning three scrimmages straight out of the gate was a huge confidence booster and proved to the girls they are capable of more than they realize.”

Opening 2021 with a new head coach, the Meridian volleyball program embarked on its second season since rebooting the sport following a 41-year hiatus.

Although the Lady Jackets own a long history of playing volleyball, the program was initially dropped following the 1973-74 school year. Meridian reinstated volleyball for the 1978-79 school year, but promptly dropped it again the following season.

Prior to the 2020 season, MISD athletic director Wade Morton and MISD superintendent Kim Edwards locked in and decided to bring volleyball back.

“It was exciting to kick-off the second year of volleyball at Meridian, following such a long absence of the sport in our school,” said Cartwright. “Our program motto this year has been “We Before Me. Every player is being encouraged and equipped to lead in their own way, whether they are a vocal leader or they lead through the work ethic and heart they bring to practice every day. Every player matters.

“As a young program, we are working to build a solid foundation that can be built upon for years to come.”

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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