Poplarville’s Lady Hornet volleyball team was able to fight through all of the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic this season and earn a historic trip to the playoffs.
The Lady Hornets went into the season having to play catch up.
The athletes finished the season last year expecting to get back on the court in the summer, but because of the pandemic that restart was delayed.
That meant when Poplarville was finally able to start practicing there was only a couple of weeks to go before the start of competition.
Head Coach Robin Jeffries said over time the athletes eventually got used to the new routines that came with playing during a pandemic.
“I think we went along with it and when we started playing we were all used to it. You know you have to walk in the gym with a mask, you know to wear a mask on the bench. I think we got used to it and it just became part of what we were doing,” Jeffries said.
The Lady Hornets started the season on a tear with a 4-2 record before district play began, raising the stakes.
However, even against district opponents Poplarville won the majority of the games and for the first time in program history earned a spot in the first round of the playoffs.
Poplarville faced Sumrall’s Bobcats Tuesday evening hoping to advance to the second round, but lost in three sets (7-25, 10-25, 12-25).
The loss knocked Poplarville out of the playoffs, which meant the six seniors in the Lady Hornets’ squad played their final game in a Poplarville uniform.
“We are going to have some big shoes to fill (next year) because the seniors we’re losing played a big part in our game. We’re young, so the young ones have to step up and fill those shoes,” Jeffries said.
The team won’t meet again until next summer with the majority of the athletes leaving to take part in winter or spring sports, which means a lot of the younger players won’t see competitive volleyball action until 2021.
Because of that, Jeffries’ message to the underclassmen after the Sumrall game was simple.
“I just encouraged them to keep working with it if they’re interested in the sport. Stay strong and come back at it next year,” Jeffries said.
Jeffries knew what her team was capable of coming into the season, it was just a matter of her players realizing their potential. Looking back at the season, the first year coach was happy with what her squad accomplished.
“The definitely met my expectations. I think listening to what the seniors had to say (after the Sumrall game), it was a fun year and that’s all I ever wanted was for them to have fun and hopefully the wins would come with it,” Jeffries said.