Before a crowded house at the Gillom Athletics Center in Oxford on the campus of The University of Mississippi, East Central didn’t want to dream its quest for a state Class 5A volleyball championship was over Thursday afternoon.
But it was.
Lafayette High, in what amounted to an almost homecourt advantage, cruised past the Lady Hornets in three sets 25-15, 25-21 as the Lady Commodores captured their first-ever state volleyball championship.
It marked the second time in three seasons Lafayette High faced off with an opponent from Jackson County in the title match, but unlike when they lost a hard-fought title match in five sets to Vanceave in 2021 this time the Lady Commodores were not to be denied.
Lafayette finishes the season on a nine-match win streak and wraps up its first championship season at 26-11 overall. The Lady Hornets, under the guidance of first-year head coach Kayla Everett, finish up 24-15 overall and with their runner-up silver medals to replicate a successful season.
Led by Class 5A Miss Volleyball Harmony Jackson and her twin tower teammate Maggie Tower, Lafayette struggled only in the second set against East Central in earning the sweep.
The Lady Commodores never trailed in the first set, taking an early 2-0 lead and stretching that advantage out to 19-10 on a Jackson kill later in the set. Lafayette wrapped up the set with a 6-5 span that included a couple of kills by the 6-foot Tower despite a few key points from East Central’s Morgan Mears mixed in.
The second set proved to be East Central’s best chance to extend the match, as with Leeann Lambert serving the Lady Hornets jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead. The advantage would be short-lived however, as Lafayette bounced back to knot things up at 6-6 just minutes later. But East Central with Lambert, Mears and Maddy Krebs recording points stretched out to its largest lead of the day at 15-9.
The Lady Commodores had other ideas though, dominating play for the rest of the set that resulted in an 11-6 run that tied things up at 21-21. From there, Jackson registered a pair of kills as Lafayette finished up on a 4-0 spurt to take the second set 25-21.
The 5-foot-8 standout Jackson, who was named the Most Valuable Player in the match as well, and Mabry Claire Eason then set the tone early in the third and final set as the Lady Commodores jumped out to a 6-3 lead and then extended that advantage to 13-6 and then 19-10 after a 13-7 spurt.
Jackson’s final ace of the match and her career came on a four-touch point and set off a Jubilant celebration on the court for the Lady Commodores and their fans.
Lafayette first-year head coach Taylor Elliot is familiar with state championships. Elliot is a former standout at OLA in Bay St. Louis and won several titles as a player with the Lady Crescents some years back.