While the state of Mississippi may be behind the times when it comes to women’s volleyball, more opportunities to play are opening up in Oxford.
According to PrepVolleyball.com, 153 Mississippi high schools had a women’s volleyball team in the 2019-2020 school year — that’s 28 percent of the state’s high schools. By comparison, 50 percent of Alabama high schools have women’s teams.
Oxford High School head volleyball coach and Oxford Volleyball Club director, Kacie Hengler, grew up playing volleyball in California. When she moved to Mississippi she noticed how far behind the skill level was in the state.
Part of the reason is that, until recently, there were few club volleyball teams registered with USA Volleyball, the sport’s governing body.
“Girls who start playing club volleyball have an advantage over those who don’t,” Hengler said. “They are able to start playing before middle school even, and receive coaching year-round.”
Caitlin Wernentin is an Oxford Volleyball Club Coach and Ole Miss volleyball alumna. She agrees with Hengler.
“Coaching in Mississippi is different because even at older age groups, we have to teach the girls the basics where in other states, they would already know what to do,” Wernentin said.
The Oxford Volleyball Club began in 2014 with about six teams and it now has 14 different teams with 10 to 11 girls on each team.
“The main goal of club volleyball is to get girls ready to play at a high level and earn college scholarships, opening the doorway for many girls who can’t afford college without a scholarship,” Wernentin said.
However, Hengler said that in order for Mississippi volleyball to get more competitive, more players need access to club volleyball teams and that can be expensive. According to an article in the Mississippi Business Journal, club volleyball usually costs around $5,000 for four to five months of play.
For some Wernentin said, the money could be an investment.
“Volleyball for some girls isn’t just for fun but also to secure their futures,” she said. “This is why I think it is important that the competition level in Mississippi volleyball needs to increase.”
And the earlier players start, the better, she said.
“I think it is important to start coaching the good habits at a young age so when they reach high school they can focus on being stronger instead of learning the game,” Wernentin said.