October 12, 2012 11:24:15 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Loud. Funny. Serious.
The 2012 Starkville High School volleyball team has it all. After going undefeated in their region for the second consecutive season and matching their number of victories, the Lady Yellow Jackets hope to take their act on the road.
First, though, Starkville (19-11) will play host to Center Hill at noon today in the second round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class II playoffs. This is the fourth straight season Starkville has advanced to the playoffs. Last season, Hernando swept Starkville 3-0 in Starkville.
This season, coach Lauren Love hopes the leadership of seniors Michaela Mills, a setter, Jamiyah Covington, a right-side hitter, and Stacie Young, a middle hitter, can help push the Lady Yellow Jackets into the next round. All three players were voted captains.
"Everybody is a hitter, so it really helps in the team mentality of it because volleyball is such a team sport, to make sure everybody is involved, and keep everybody involved," Love said. "I think that really helps the team mentality of it. They look to their teammates to make the winning point, and they look to themselves, too, and count on everybody. That is what you have to do, work together on the court."
Starkville worked together even harder in the spring and through the preseason to get ready because Love wasn't with the team at the start of the season. She gave birth to her daughter, Elaina Clark, in July. The seniors said Love prepared them for her absence so they would be able to fix problems themselves. That preparation helped them come together and develop a team chemistry that has helped them get to this point.
"We're extremely close on that court, and the way we had to pull together because of coach, that just built us up," Mills said.
Said Young, "We had to comfort each other instead of depending on coach to come back in and pick us back up."
Young said everything clicked once the senior found the right balance and took hold of the team as leaders. She and Mills said their personalities blend with Covington's to form a unique trio. Young said Covington is the "funny one," who will joke around, while she considers herself the "serious" one, who keeps teammates in line. She said Mills is the vocal leader, or "loud one", who gets the point across.
It's even better that each player can take on another role if one player is down and needs someone to pick the other up.
"When the three of us get picked up, the rest of the team just comes on in with us," Young said.
As a result, Mills can say with a touch of surprise that she didn't think the team would be as together as it is entering the playoffs. She said she is extremely proud of everything the Lady Yellow Jackets have accomplished, and that they are ready to do more today.
"We're going to play hard," Mills said. "I know we are going to play our hearts out. We're going to leave everything on the court."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.