June 6, 2010 12:22:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Ja''nae Poe and Tarshayla Stephenson would love to continue to play volleyball in college.
In the eight months since their high school volleyball careers ended, the Starkville and Columbus high school standouts have started to piece together the next phases of their lives.
Next month, though, Poe and Stephenson will have what could be their final chance to make an impression on the volleyball court when they compete July 14 for the North team in the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star game.
Teams of juniors and seniors from the North and South will compete against each other in the annual event at Mississippi College.
"I have been thinking about it a lot lately," Stephenson said. "It motivates me a lot to get better at volleyball."
Both players said they are eager to keep working back into volleyball shape so they are ready for the game. Stephenson said she is taking summer classes at East Mississippi Community College''s Mayhew campus. Poe said she is undecided where she would like to go to college.
At 5-foot-11, Stephenson, who is primarily a middle blocker, played nearly every position for the Lady Falcons in 2009. She said the All-Star game will be a "grand" opportunity to show what she can do.
"I think we''re going to do just fine," Stephenson said. "I have seen our teammates play and they''re pretty good. It is the best of the best, and I am just looking forward to the competition."
Poe, a team captain, also played all over the court and helped the Yellow Jackets overcome a slow start.
"Toward the middle we pulled together as a team," said Poe, who is 5-9. "It was great to see my girls and myself pull together. I felt a lot of pressure to do good and to set a good example for my girls. I enjoyed this year."
Starkville High''s Lauren Love will coach the North Senior All-Stars. For her, it is a chance to lead some of the state''s top players at a time when preparations are under way for the start of the 2010 high school season.
"I am so proud to be representing the North and Starkville," said Love, who will enter her second season at Starkville High later this year. "There are so many great student-athletes to narrow it down. Once we decided the rosters, it was really exciting to call the girls and to introduce myself and to tell them they had been chosen."
Love said the teams were picked after the 2009 high school volleyball season. She said the game could provide a chance for high school seniors who haven''t signed with a school to play volleyball to attract attention. She said the All-Star game could be the opportunity needed for the few girls who haven''t signed to play to catch the eye of a coach.
Love said Poe and Stephenson were selected for their performance on the court and their leadership abilities. She is looking forward to working with Poe, Stephenson, and the rest of her players.
"They were leaders in the stat column, and they both just seemed to love the game," Love said. "They deserved a chance to continue and represent their school and the North and get the excitement going for the Columbus and Starkville communities because it is a great honor to represent them."
The teams will practice for two days the week of the game before taking the court.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.