JSU volleyball: No unbeaten season for Gamecocks, but they have a bigger prize in mind

Mark Edwards, The Anniston Star, Ala.
·3 min read

Mar. 30—Jacksonville State's volleyball team lost its first match of the season Monday, but count on emotional leader Lexie Libs to find a bright spot.

The Gamecocks closed out the regular season at Morehead State, winning Sunday 3-2 and losing Monday 3-0. That left both teams at 15-1 and Ohio Valley Conference co-champions. On top of that, because Morehead State won the tiebreaker between the two teams, it will host the four-team OVC tournament Thursday and Friday — not Jacksonville State.

"Yes, we don't get to sleep in our own beds and everything like that, but we would've had to take a seven-, eight-hour drive back (Monday) night, which would've put us back at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning," Libs said by Zoom video call Tuesday afternoon from the team's hotel in Morehead, Ky. "So, that quick turnaround would've been super hard. On the bright side, we get to stay here and we get to rest up and we get to keep scouting. And, Morehead's gym, we just played in there twice. So, it's kind of like we're used to that gym already."

JSU will face Southeast Missouri (14-2) in Thursday's semifinals at 3 p.m., and Morehead State will play Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (10-4) at 5 p.m. The championship match will be Friday at 5 p.m. ESPN+ will broadcast all three matches.

Libs is a senior and two-time All-OVC setter, who's an odds-on favorite to make all-league again this year. She's the one who JSU volleyball fans see at matches bouncing around as if every point just won a championship. It's made her a favorite, and her fire seems infectious.

"I've always been raised by my dad and my grandpa that every little thing is going to be all right," she said. "I've carried that through not only my volleyball career but my life in general. So, especially in this situation, everything happened for a reason, and our team is going to take that in stride."

Sharing the regular-season title means JSU players get a championship ring, but for the Gamecocks, the big fish is the tournament crown. An NCAA tournament bid goes to the winner of that.

"I know right after we lost in the locker room, that was my main thought," Libs said. "It happened. It is what it is. It's better to happen now than in a couple of days in the tournament and we get sent home with nothing."

Libs isn't the only one on the team who wasn't aiming for that tournament title all along. Third-year head coach Todd Garvey said that his hope before the season was that the Gamecocks would (a) qualify for the four-team field and (b) be good enough to win it.

Considering JSU lost four starters from the 2019 team that won the OVC regular season, it wasn't a sure bet that the Gamecocks would finish in the top four.

"This year, we didn't talk about winning the regular season," Garvey said Tuesday by Zoom video conferencing. "It's awesome that we tied Morehead for that, but we've mainly been talking about how we wanted to be one of the four teams that made the tournament and then we wanted to win the tournament. So, we've got everything we've been working for set out in front of us, and that's an awesome feeling. We lost four starters last year. So for us to go 15-1 and get a share of the OVC title, that's a bonus."

Senior Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.