Oxford Volleyball invited to Nike Tournament of Champions


Aidan Patel, sports editor

OHS volleyball opened their 2022 campaign with a dominant 23-6 record to open up the season, including winning their first thirteen games in a row. 

The Lady Chargers were invited to the 2022 Nike Tournament of Champions from September second to third in Tampa, Florida. The tournament consisted of 88 teams across the southeast, broken up into three divisions of National, Premier, and Elite. The Chargers were bracketed into the Premier division, finishing the tournament with a 2-4 record. 

Third year head coach Ashley Martin talks about the teams in Tampa and how well the Chargers played.

“You are playing a totally different speed of volleyball than the girls are used to [in Mississippi],” Martin said. “We had some really close games against some really competitive teams. We played all teams that were coming out of Florida, and Florida volleyball is really intense. It is a lot different than the speed of Mississippi volleyball, but I thought they were able to get some really good touches and just figure out some of those things we did and that we really need to work on.

Martin has high praise for how much the team learned and handled the competition in the tournament.

“I think making smarter decisions on the court was really big,” Martin said. “There were big blocks. It was making sure and kind of seeing what was open to hit the ball and that is what we have been working on in practice and in games, but that was some very competitive and very challenging teams to put those tests up against.” 

Martin also touched on who has been the backbone of the Chargers and has kept the team collected on the court through adversity.

“Claire Wicker is our setter and she does a really good job in calming down everyone when they need to be calmed down and everyone really trusts her to get the job done, but her teammates also know that she trusts them to do what they are supposed to do as well,” Martin said. “I think she did a really good job of leading the team on the court and making sure they are doing what they need to do to be able to put the ball away. 

Senior captain Bree Lyons spoke on the adversity the team was going to have to face going into the tournament.

“We knew coming into the tournament we weren’t going to sweep through our competition. We just wanted to get better, and I think we really did on Saturday. The first day we lost all of our games, but on Saturday we won 2 in straight sets. Friday showed us how we need to face adversity better and we learned how to play our game when being challenged.”

Lyons also talked about how well the team performed and adjusted in all perspectives from playing teams across the southeast.

“No matter the score we kept our cool and just played our game. If we noticed our teammates were getting flustered, we brought everybody in a huddle and calmed their nerves. I’m proud of the way we stepped up in our leadership roles. It’s a great learning experience for us and it definitely strengthened our play. It was a humbling realization walking into the building and knowing we really aren’t the top team there. It showed us how well we’re able to hang with some of the top teams and how we bounce back from losses,” Lyons said.

Junior captain Claire Wicker expressed how much the players have stepped up, not just throughout the regular season but also in Tampa.

“Bree Lyons did really well in helping out everyone on the court, she was loud in the back row and put the ball away most of the time when it was given to her, she had a really good weekend. Lauren Ussery, a freshman, also had a really good weekend considering she’s never played in a competition like this. She did a really good job stepping up and playing out of her comfort zone and we’re all really proud of her.” 

Oxford is off to another hotstart to begin the season and have a few weeks left until playoffs arrive. The Chargers have clinched the division title and a playoff spot after defeating Tupelo on September 22nd.

“I think that it is important to remember those challenges that you face early on and why you faced those challenges,” Martin said. “I think it is important to remember that and look back and reflect. I think it is important to think back and look and see, what happened, what we did, and how we can get better from it.”