Photo Courtesy Brandon Athletics

By Robert Wilson

       Brandon has won the last two MHSAA Class 6A state volleyball championships and four of the past six seasons.

       After this weekend’s impressive showing at the Mississippi Volleyball Invitational at the Jackson Convention Center, look for Brandon to make a strong run at the newly formed Class 7A state title.

       Brandon won seven matches – losing only three sets – to capture the gold bracket in the first annual MHSAA event, which featured 30 public school teams from around the state.

       Brandon defeated Class 6A Lake Cormorant 2-1, Class 4A Northeast Lauderdale 2-0 and Class 7A Pearl 2-0 in pool play Friday, then defeated Class 6A Hancock 2-1, Class 7A Northwest Rankin 2-0, Class 7A Madison Central 2-1 and Class 7A Lewisburg 2-0 to win the gold bracket.

Photo Courtesy Brandon Athletics

“This incredible tournament hosted by the MHSAA with 30 teams under one roof at the beginning of the season gave us the opportunity to play teams we wouldn’t get to play in the regular season to see where we are as a team now,” said Brandon coach Kelsa Walker, whose first year at Brandon was 2014 and not only has won four state titles but was state runner-up in 2020 and state semifinalist in 2019. “We learned that we have some areas that we need to focus on becoming more disciplined as well as communicating more effectively on the court. I was blown away with the heart and guts my girls showed. They did not lay down when they were behind or moments they were struggling. They continued to encourage one another and push through hard as a team. We were super excited to finish on top, but we know that is a stepping stone. The gold we are wanting to hold up is the one at the end of October so we must continue to grow as a team and individuals on and off the court to accomplish that. So we will go back to work and strive to ‘Rise up,’ in those areas one match at a time, one day at a time.”

Photo Courtesy Brandon Athletics

       Walker returns six starters – three seniors, two juniors and a freshman – from last year’s team, which finished with a 43-7 record, a school record for wins. The returning starters are seniors Southern Miss commit and outside hitter Emily Davis, Memphis commit and outside hitter Emma Levingston and Jones County Junior College commit and middle blockers Kallie Johnson, juniors Libero Avery Power and setter Fisher Enis and freshman opposite/middle blocker Zendeh Wyatt. The two starters who graduated were outside hitter Sunni Sheppard (now playing at Houston) and setter-right side hitter Brooke Bankston, (now playing at Louisiana-Monroe). Johnson and Power have started on the last two state championship teams.

       “Our standard each season is a gold ball standard on and off the court,” Walker said. “We are super fortunate this year to have a lot of depth in different positions along with having girls that have been trained to play several positions. Also, last year’s state championship group afforded lots of valuable reps throughout the season for seniors, (defensive specialist) Sophie Warren and (middle blocker) Taylor Shane Parker, along with junior (defensive specialist) Cambell Herrington, and sophomores, (setter) Mia Williams and (Libero) Aubrey Dale, that paid off this weekend.”

       Brandon, which has now won 12 games in a row (the last five last year and the first seven this year), plays Starkville Tuesday at home and at Madison Central Wednesday.