The 2023 High School volleyball season kicks off this weekend as the Mississippi High School Activities Association will host the inaugural Mississippi Volleyball Invitational featuring 32 teams from across the state including seven teams representing the Southern Six counties here in South Mississippi. Matches will be played on Friday and Saturday at the Jackson Convention Center.
Bay High, East Central, Gulfport, Hancock, Ocean Springs, OLA, and Pass Christian will represent South Mississippi in the event. Three spots are still open in the 32-team field as pool play is set to begin at 11:00 am on Friday. Pool play will consist of 3 matches with the top 2 seeds of each pool advancing to the Gold Bracket play Saturday while the bottom 2 teams in each pool will compete in the Silver Bracket. Silver Bracket matches begin at 9:30 am while Gold Bracket play begins at 10:30 am. Admission is $10 per day and can be purchased through GoFan.
The field announced at this time includes 4 of last year’s 6 State Champions as Belmont, Brandon, Lake Cormorant and OLA will participate. 9 teams in the field will make up over one-third of the new 7A classification and should showcase potential post-season matchups. Defending 3A champion OLA finds Alcorn Central in the field and sets up a potential rematch of last year’s championship match won by the Lady Crescents. Ocean Springs and new 6A power Hancock hope to get a rematch with defending 6A, now 7A, power Brandon. The Lady Bulldogs eliminated both coast powers on the way to the championship. The Gulfport Lady Admirals could also get a shot at the team that ended their season in a potential 7A playoff preview against Oak Grove.
The East Central Lady Hornets head into the invitational using it to prepare themselves for a new Division 4-5A. Joining the Lady Hornets will be Jackson County rivals Vancleave and Gautier as well as Stone, Laurel, and Wayne County. East Central was eliminated in the 3rd round last year by West Harrison who has moved into Division 4-6A which now includes George County, Hancock, State runner-up Long Beach, Pascagoula and Picayune. 4A power Pass Christian will not get a chance to seek revenge for their loss in the State Championship to New Albany as the Lady Bulldogs were not in the 32-team field announced by the MSHSAA. The Lady Pirates find themselves in Division 8-4A this season with playoff teams Bay High, Greene County, Poplarville and the Moss Point Lady Tigers.
The new 7A classification consists of 6 of the 8 teams from last year’s Division 4-6A set up with Hancock and Pascagoula dropping to the new Division 4-6A set up. Pearl River Central slides north into the new Division 3-6A along with Forest Hill, Hattiesburg, Jim Hill, Terry and West Jones. The top 4 teams in each 6-team division will qualify for the playoffs.