Lely volleyball team looks to take it one step further

Andrew Sodergren, 239-263-4731
Lely's Emmanuelle Meurgue (7) goes up for a block against Bayshore's Jojo Muldoon (9) during the first set Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015 at Lely High School. Lely hosted Bradenton-Bayshore dring the quarterfinal of the Class 5A regional volleyball championship. (Corey Perrine/Staff)

Five straight district titles.

Four consecutive regional final appearances.

Yes, the Lely volleyball team has built a commendable resume over the last five years.

The one thing the Trojans haven’t accomplished is a trip to the state tournament in Lakeland.

Lely (11-6) begins its latest quest to reach that goal with its Class 6A-District 12 opener against Cape Coral-Mariner on Tuesday at home.

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Second-year coach Chris Haire is pleased with the team’s progress entering the playoffs.

“We’ve gained a lot of ground from where we started,” she said. “We’re improving on a daily basis, and we’re definitely on the right track. With seven seniors, we had pretty high expectations this season. We felt we’d be a better team (than last year), more for what we’ve accomplished off the court.”

Haire says the senior-laden squad is a tight-knit group, a sentiment senior captain Emmanuelle Meurgue shares.

“I feel we have a really strong connection on and off the court,” Meurgue said. “You see our bond on the court with the way we play and how well we work together. That’s one of our main strengths. We’ve been playing so long together, and this is our final year. Most of us played middle school volleyball together and club volleyball together. We’re very close, and we really want to win that regional final. We’ve worked so hard for it.”

Haire said the close bond her team shares will serve them well going forward.

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“You can’t just throw a group of girls together and expect them to play cohesively,” Haire said. “You have to work as a team, rely on each other and respect each other. These girls have confidence that they’re going to each do their individual jobs to be the best team we can be.”

Meurgue and fellow senior Katie Moss have each turned in outstanding seasons, both offensively and defensively. Sophomore setter Morgan Broxson has eased into the role vacated by four-year starter Kaitlyn Ziegelmaier, now playing college volleyball at Division II Francis Marion in Florence, S.C.

The Trojans had a number of key victories during the season, but none more thrilling than a nailbiter at home to archrival Naples. Lely pulled out an epic match in a 25-22, 28-30, 25-20, 24-26, 16-14 thriller Sept. 8.

“That was the point where we peaked and we’ve continued to grow since then,” Meurgue said. “That was the moment we really came together as a team and gave us something for districts, regionals and everything else to come.”