TUPELO Words matter, and the louder the better.

Tupelo volleyball coach Laurie Bishop made that abundantly clear on Monday, which was the first day of preseason practices for teams around the state.

About halfway through practice, Bishop gathered the players in a circle – socially distanced, of course – and they picked five characteristics they wanted to define this year’s Lady Wave squad.

Two of the characteristics were communication and encouragement.

“We talked about communication, but it has to be audible,” Bishop said. “There’s a lot of soft-spoken girls on this team. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being soft-spoken, except when communication is such a big part of the sport. Not just communicating what’s happening on the court, but communicating that positive energy, that encouragement that we talked about.”

Setter Mallory Peters, one of six seniors, said she’s trying to set the example for her teammates.

“This year we’re trying to celebrate more, so I’m trying to cheer everyone up,” Peters said. “If they make a mistake I’m like, ‘It’s OK, next point, next point.’ I’m trying to take on more of that senior leadership role.”

Tupelo went 20-10 last season and missed the Class 6A playoffs. Its division includes perennial powers Lewisburg and DeSoto Central.

“I feel like last year we kind of fell apart at the end,” Peters said. “We kind of gave up at the end instead of putting our hearts into the game. So I really hope we have that dedication this year and that focus.”

In addition to Peters, the Lady Wave have several experienced front-row hitters, including seniors Maggie Griggs and Alissa Hawes. Those two combined for 519 kills last season.

Their abilities were evident during Monday’s practice, which was crisply run and only interrupted by breaks for water and dollops of hand sanitizer. Practices were originally scheduled to begin July 27, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced a two-week delay.

The Lady Wave were just happy to be back on the court.

“It does feel normal-ish,” Bishop said. “I have never said the word sanitize as often or as regularly. It does feel good to be back.”

Tupelo opens the season Aug. 25 at Olive Branch.

brad.locke@journalinc.com

Twitter: @bradlocke

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