Oct. 25—This past weekend, volleyball season came to a close for Northeast Mississippi's high schools.
However, just off Highway 78, an area college team still has plenty left to play for.
The Blue Mountain Christian University Toppers are currently 17-1 and 11-0 in the Southern States Athletic Conference. The Toppers are also riding a 15-match winning streak in which they've won 42 of 44 sets played.
"We're doing really well, and hopefully we can keep the momentum going," coach Reid Gann said. "We've got a really good thing going here at Blue Mountain volleyball. We have a lot of expectations."
Those expectations have been set thanks to a great deal of success in recent years.
Blue Mountain is coming off of back-to-back SSAC tournament championships and NAIA National Championship Tournament appearances. Over that span, they've gone 64-12.
It's a quick rise for a program that's in just its fifth season of existence. For Gann, who's coached all five of those seasons, that rise has come thanks to three key factors.
"I've been blessed with a really competitive group of girls where winning is important to them," Gann said. "I think that you factor in recruiting well. You factor in experience and execution. Those three. I would attribute it to that, so we've come a long way in five short years."
This season, the list of top contributors is an extensive one.
Seniors Kaytie Rutland and Olivia Ashton are two right side hitters with valuable versatility and height. Reanna Brown is the team's top setter and has been named SSAC Setter of the Week twice.
"She has a really bright future ahead of her," Gann said. "The setter position, it's a tough position and she has stepped up and has put the ball where it needs to be for our hitters to attack, and she's done a really nice job."
Gigi Sasso has been instrumental to BMCU's success this season. Sasso, a graduate student from Brazil, leads the Toppers with 179 kills and holds a .271 hitting percentage.
"Her continued play at a high level for us is very important," Gann said.
Junior setter Michaela Frederick and senior middle blocker Randi Crandall have also been big contributors.
Blue Mountain enters a pivotal part of its regular season schedule.
Its next match comes against Loyola University-Louisiana on Friday, with the winner taking sole possession of first place in the SSAC. Once that's completed, just one match remains before the conference tournament, which starts on Nov. 9 in Montgomery, Alabama.
Staying hot through that stretch will involve doing a lot of what's gotten the Toppers to where they are.
"Can we stay low-error and can we continue to ... just execute at a high level and just keep the momentum going?" Gann said. "When you're where we're at, that's really what you need to do."