COLUMBIA, MS (WDAM) - East Marion volleyball finished 20-5 a season ago, falling to the eventual state runner-up Resurrection in the first round of the playoffs.
The Eagles are hungry for more in 2017.
"They have that fever," said sixth-year East Marion volleyball coach Mandell Echols. "They want to take [Resurrection's] place and end up winning the championship."
East Marion came into the season with high aspirations. After losing one of their key players due to injury, junior Tytianna Porter has stepped up for the Eagles. The outside hitter leads East Marion in kills (251), aces (106) and blocks (42).
"One of my main hitters messed her knee up last year and Ty stepped up and became that person," Echols said. "Even last year, she couldn't serve. I had somebody serving for her. And now this year she's leading our district in serving aces, she's leading the district in kills, she's leading the district in blocks. She's been a vital part to the team."
"Just [coach Echols] pushing me and I got to stay aggressive," said Porter on the key to her success. "And wanting us to win."
There's been no shortage of wins for East Marion this season. The Eagles are 22-1 (10-0 in district play), their only loss coming against Petal in the second match of the year. East Marion attributes much of the success to its offseason work.
"We just worked all summer and improved on some weak spots that we had," Porter said.
"Just hard work and just dedication," Echols said. "It started in the summer. Them wanting to work hard in June, July. Even when I had to go to military duty they wanted me to have my assistant open the gym so they could get the work in. So, it's just hard work."
The Eagles are beginning to see the fruits of their labor. However, East Marion will have to get past defending champion Our Lady Academy on Tuesday night to keep its state title hopes alive.
"[Coach Echols] just wants us to have fun when we play," Porter said. "Don't be so tight and tense."
"Like I tell the girls all the time, it's in the heart right now," Echols said. "They've learned everything I've taught them. All they've got to do is just a self-check of themselves and just be ready at all times."