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2018 ALL-AREA VOLLEYBALL TEAM: Lillian Lindsey paces Water Valley on way to Player of the Year honor

OXFORD — Water Valley’s volleyball program has made strides to turn things around in recent years with back-to-back playoff appearances. Lillian Lindsey has been a major reason for the turnaround.

The junior had one of the better seasons in the state, helping her be named the 2018 EAGLE Player of the Year.

Lindsey finished with a hitting percentage of .599, which was the third best average in the state behind Brandon’s Kate Bass (.619) and Our Lady Academy’s Rebecca Walk (.599).

“I’ve been focusing a lot on playing volleyball this past year,” Lindsey said. “I’ve been playing club and then spending extra free time working on volleyball and just getting better.”

Along with playing on Water Valley’s team, Lindsey has also been playing with Oxford Premiere Volleyball, a club team coached by Oxford head coach Kacie Hengler. The three years Lindsey has spent consistently playing volleyball year round has been paying off and the fruits of her labor started showing this year.

Offensively, Lindsey was a weapon for the Blue Devils with 340 kills, leading the team by more than 100. Her tally made her the 11th best in the state in the kill category. Lindsey also cracked the top-100 in the state with 57 aces.

“Lillian is a leader,” Water Valley head coach Allison McCain said. “I’ve had her since ninth grade and she steps on the court and wants to take charge. She’s very athletic, very smart. Every year she has gotten better and better. It was her year. We did a lot more lifting and she did a lot more and got stronger. I think just everything was clicking as far as the chemistry between her and Zarabeth (Adams) setting as far as hits went. With her serving she just worked and worked on different serves and they all just came together.”

Defensively, Lindsey finished with a team-high 77 digs to with 15 blocks.

McCain just concluded her third season as the volleyball coach. It is the only coach Lindsey has experienced at the varsity level and between her and Hengler’s help on the club team she saw her game reach new heights.

As with most female athletes at the high school level, Lindsey is a multi-sport player. She also runs cross-country and long distance track. The two sports are very different from one another in regards to the physical demands, but Lindsay has seen benefits from one sport helping the other.

“I feel like it makes me a little quicker on the court” Lindsey said. “It just keeps me from getting tired. I felt like (the weight room) helped with how high I can jump and the strength training really made a difference in how I played.”

Once she concludes her final season of high school volleyball in 2019 Lindsey has aspirations of continuing her career at the next level. She is not 100 percent decided but is heavily leaning towards it and if she does play at the collegiate level it will be one sport only, hanging up the track cleats.

Water Valley

Joining Lindsey on the 2018 Eagle All-Area team is teammate Anna Mills Avant.

The two helped the Blue Devils to a 15-8 record and reached the second round of the Class I playoffs this season.

Avant, the reigning softball EAGLE Player of the Year, had a successful conclusion to her high school volleyball career. She finished behind Lindsay with 131 kills and 49 aces.

“Those two will lead and do whatever it takes to motivate the rest of the team,” McCain said. “(Avant) is aggressive. She gives 100 percent no matter what she’s doing whether it’s on the softball field or the volleyball court. She fights because she wants to win.”

On the defensive side of the net, Avant was also behind Lindsey with 63 digs and also had 6 blocks.

When McCain arrived at Water Valley it was all new to her, but Lindsey and Avant were two of her players that helped the acclimation process go a lot smoother.

“Everybody has athletes in some aspect and those two helped lead and made me feel at home,” McCain said. “I know if there’s a problem whether it’s chemistry on the court or another issue I can go to those two, figure out what’s going on and try to help. They are two very great girls that work hard.”

Oxford

The Chargers wrapped their second year in Class III with another postseason appearance. It was an all-hands on deck approach by head coach Kacie Hengler, mixing old and young players together to try and find the winning combination.

Through all that two players were a constant on the floor in seniors Gray DuPerier and Kelsey Wilborn, who both made the All-Area team for Oxford.

Wilborn, who was one of the team captains, led the Chargers with 152 kills. She also finished third on the team in digs with 177.

“Kelsey is the player that gave 100% every single time she stepped on the court,” Hengler said. “She hit hard every time she had the chance and sacrificed her body time after time for the ball. Always had a great attitude and always worked hard to improve her game. She is the one everyone on the team could always rely on.”

DuPerier was a key piece of the Chargers’ defense all season. She led the team with 271 digs and averaged 8.2 digs per match. Offensively, Duperier had success on the serve with 36 aces, putting her third best on the team in that category.

“Gray was by far our best serve receive passer. She is an amazing athlete and was the backbone of our defense,” Hengler said. “The team could always rely on her for a solid good first contact. I loved coaching Gray because she knew how to take correction and apply it.”

Lafayette

It was another postseason appearance by the Commodores, which was aided by a team effort.

It was a youth movement for Lafayette as freshman Kailey Gooch along with senior Sarah Rae Goolsby represents the Commodores on this year’s All-Area team.

Gooch, who moved straight to the varsity team, led the Commodores with 301 kills, putting her 14th best in the state in that category. She also had 38 aces.

“When we made the decision to play Kailey on the varsity team it was a risk,” Lafayette head coach Clint Jordan said. “She’d only played eighth grade volleyball. We knew the talent she had and we knew the potential she had.”

Goolsby led the team with 155 digs and was second on the team in aces with 84. She also finished tied for second with Mariah Holland with 229 kills.

“Thing thing about Sarah Rae is she’s rarely going to have a game where she gets so many kills you’re like ‘wow’ or she’s rarely going to have enough aces for you to go ‘wow.’ Rarely going to have enough digs for you to go ‘wow’,” Jordan said. “But if you look at the numbers every night she’s one of our top two in every category. It’s just a tribute to how good she is all around.”