SHS volleyball celebrates seniors with victory
McKay Richardson (center) sets the volleyball up for teammate and sister Wheeler Richardson (1) as Khristian Carr (3) looks on. (Kim Murrell/SDN)
Coach Lauren Love's Starkville High volleyball team sure knows how to host a Senior Night.
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In Tuesday night's festivities against Columbus at the Beehive, the Lady Yellowjackets honored seniors Tierra Tillman, Jondia Witherspoon, and Rebecca Myles, cruised past the Lady Falcons in straight sets, and locked up a playoff berth.
"This was excellent," said Myles. "All the girls are terrific and I love them to death, and for us to come home with a victory tonight was great. I couldn't have asked for anything better."
The Lady Jackets (20-9, 2-2) dominated throughout, winning the first set 25-11 before taking both sets two and three by a 25-7 score. The victory takes Starkville into the postseason as the Class III, Region 2 runner-up.
"It was great to finish the regular season like this, at home, on a positive note, where everybody was able to contribute," said Love. "We had great support on and off the court with great fans, both parents and students tonight."
Wheeler Richardson, Priyanka Parajuli, and Elizabeth Scott all had standout performances for Starkville.
Richardson tallied nine points, six assists, and four aces, Parajuli put up nine points and two aces, and Scott finished with five digs and three aces.
McKay Richardson added five points and three aces in the winning effort.
Myles, Witherspoon, and Tillman all contributed in their final regular-season game as well, with Myles notching seven points, an ace, and a kill, Witherspoon getting five points and three aces, and Tillman recording one point, one kill, and one dig.
All of this in front of possibly the most raucous home crowd of the season.
Love said the Beehive's electric atmosphere played a vital role in pushing the Lady Jackets to a win in the regular-season finale.
"I've got goose bumps right now and I had them throughout," said SHS's second-year coach moments after the match. "Just to see the team on the volleyball court playing relaxed, yet focused and having fun with the support. We've had some focus keys that we've needed to take care of and one was playing relaxed and comfortable. Sometimes we get low, sometimes we hit harder and serve tougher. It's all just a matter of focus, and we were able to do that tonight."
If SHS ever slacked in intensity, they had plenty of reminders to snap them back to reality on this night. Aside from the aforementioned honoring of seniors and the amped up Lady Jacket faithful, each Starkville varsity player had a photographic banner hung high above the home court.
Love said the banners were just a small way to give her team more notoriety and exposure to the community and to the student body.
With the impressive win, the photos of Myles, Witherspoon, and Tillman looked to have possibly sparked the Lady Jackets to fight just a little harder to give their senior trio a 'W' on their special night.
Witherspoon and Tillman each said they enjoyed Tuesday's festivities, but they both hope there are more celebrations left in Starkville's future.
"Tonight was a lot of fun," said Witherspoon. "But I'm glad we made it to the playoffs and can keep playing."
Added Tillman: "It would be awesome (to end the year) with a ring on my finger for volleyball."
Starkville will take their first step towards that goal when the playoffs begin on the road Saturday at 1 p.m. against Class III, Region 1 champion DeSoto Central.
Love knows a road playoff game is no easy challenge but thinks her team will be up for the test.
"We just have to take care of our side," said Love. "The girls believe they have the skills to match up with anyone."