by Joseph W. Gex II, Contributing Writer
The Our Lady Academy Crescents entered the season as the defending Class 3A state champions, and they will enter their 2024 campaign in the same fashion after clouding the view of Alcorn Central for a four-set victory in the state finals on Friday at the Gillom Center on the campus of the University of Mississippi.
The Crescents defeated the Lady Bears in 25-13, 20-25, 25-20, and 25-15.
Myah Favre, Ava Davis, and the rest of the Crescents cast a huge shadow over the competition in Oxford en route to the state title in the program’s 19th state final appearance.
Favre was a beast at the net and Davis just kept feeding the monster as the Crescents did not miss a serve in the entire match.
The team also recorded eight solo blocks and 18 block assists, the most team blocks all season, in the finals.
The Crescents (42-4) came out strong and delivered blow to the Lady Bears (31-6) in the first set only to lose their momentum in the second set.
However, after a team pow-wow between the second and third sets, OLA righted the ship and delivered crushing blow after blow in the third and fourth sets to claim the victory.
The final point was as poignant as it was beautiful with the most powerful hitter, Favre, in the building simply tapping the ball down in the front corner away from any competition.
Ava Davis was named MVP of the Class 3A state finals and Kinsley Jean Stegall was honored as the Scholar Athlete.
In the finals, Davis recorded 16 points, 47 assists, and 3 aces while Favre tallied 10 points, 27 assists, and 10 blocks.
Ava Alonzo added 16 points and 15 serves received while Taylor Henley had 14 kills and 5 blocks. Loralie Williford had 6 kills and Kinsley Jean Stegall had 24 digs and 35 serves received.
OLA head coach Emily Corley commented, “We came out very focused and determined in the first set against a very strong opponent. However, in the second set we stopped hitting the ball and attacking the net and, ultimately, dropped the set. In between the second and third set, we reminded the girls what they had done all season long that had brought them to this point. They responded well, found their groove, and started hitting the ball again. We returned to our style of play in the third and fourth sets.”
At the beginning of every season in the Father Peter Mockler Gymnasium, the goal is always the same which is to win the state championship. And this year wasn’t any different.
The OLA coaching staff reminds each player at the beginning of the season the tradition that came before them and that it is their duty to continue it.
Corley continued, “We start each year out the same way. We want the older girls to remember what tradition they uphold, and we want the younger girls know what they are chasing. We try to keep them focused on the ultimate team goal throughout the season and when it begins to inch closer as the season progresses, you hope that you have done all that you can do to sup- port them as they chase the final game of the season.”
The Crescents set a record for most wins in a season with 42 against just four losses. The team has a strong nucleus returning to the court led by Favre and Davis.
They will lose seniors Casey Hanrahan, Emma Cleveland, Ava Alonso, and Laney Fletcher to graduation but there is an assortment of younger talent eager to take the floor to fill the void.
Corley added, “Looking back to the beginning of the season, we didn’t realize this team would do what it did. This group of girls played so well together. They bought in to what we are as OLA volleyball. They picked up teammates who struggled at times. This team wanted to prove that they belong to the tradition of OLA volleyball. And they did.”
The tradition that is OLA volleyball is quite expansive. OLA has won every division title since 2000 and for those of you who have trouble with math that is 24 consecutive division titles. OLA has played in 19 state championship matches and claimed 16 state championships in the sport.
That is the most state championships by one school in any sport in Mississippi history. The Crescents have won state titles in 2002- 03, 2006-09, 2012-19, and 2022-23.
And the 2023 Crescents delivered the best record out of all of them.