Heading into the final volleyball match of her high school career, Sophie Meredith is calmer than most athletes might be in her position.
The Oceanside Collegiate team captain led the Landsharks into the same situation they were in a year ago: Facing St. Joseph's for the Class AA state championship.
“I feel blessed. My last game will be in a state final. A lot of girls can't say that, so it's really humbling,” the senior said.
Oceanside will play St. Joseph’s at noon Saturday at River Bluff High School in Lexington. The Landsharks reached the finals by beating Philip Simmons in the Lower State championship.
The 2019 finals will be a change of pace for the Lowcountry volleyball scene. This time last year, the Charleston area had a great chance to bring a volleyball championship home from Lexington.
Oceanside, Wando and Bishop England all made it to title games in their respective classes, with Wando (Class AAAAA) playing in its sixth straight championship game and the Bishops (Class AAA) vying for their 19th consecutive title.
Oceanside was the new kid on the block, playing in its first championship game. All three came back empty-handed.
A year later, the Landsharks are the only team from the Lowcountry playing for a state title.
If Oceanside is going to bring home a championship trophy, it will have to go through St. Joseph’s, a Greenville-based Catholic school that has won eight straight championships, including last year’s against Oceanside.
Meredith says the Landsharks are up to the challenge. They have the talent on the floor and a coach with a wealth of experience.
Before becoming Oceanside's volleyball coach, Ami Khaledi won four Big South Conference titles coaching at Charleston Southern. He also coached at The Citadel and for the men’s Iranian Olympic team.
Under his direction, Oceanside is making its second appearance in the state finals. The program was started four years ago.
“That will and desire to get back to this point is what’s really motivating us,” he said. “I think we have a lot of talent on our team, and that starts with Sophie and the rest of our senior leadership.”
When Saturday arrives, Meredith will drown out all the extra noise. Representing the Lowcountry at the state finals will be an afterthought, and so will her verbal commitment to USC Aiken.
All that will matter is dethroning St. Joseph’s.
“Losing last year just motivated us to get back here,” she said. “I think we have a good shot as long as we focus on playing the best game we can on our side of the net.”