Behind new and familiar faces, the Panthers volleyball team looking to prove something

Meishia Griffin finishes a spike during their game against Mercer. Photo Submitted by GSU Athletics

There are many possibilities for the composition of sports teams entering the year: the modern-day “Baby Braves” of 2019 or 2020 Miami Marlins, powered mostly by young and emerging stars. 

Along with the classic, veteran-led teams with a high level of experience, there are always those great underdogs who return wily veterans and mix them with new players eager to learn.

Having leaders and mentors on a team is essential, and the Georgia State volleyball team is no exception. Head coach Sally Polhamus boasts seven returning players and seven newcomers. 

With the drastic roster changes and the new circumstances entering the season, things often taken for granted, like building team chemistry and learning sets, would be more challenging this year in theory. However, in practice, that was not the case according to two early-season contributors, freshman Ally Thees and senior Meisheia Griffin.

“We have been able to grow closer because we are all going through the same things with online classes and the lack of human interaction that we have on a daily basis,” Thees said. “I love my team this year. Despite the pandemic and social distancing guidelines, we have found ways to all stay connected with one another.”

Thees’ first college semester has brought about a fair amount of changes that she has adapted to. She moved from South Carolina to Georgia State and took classes over the summer anticipating everything being online. Despite this, Thees still finds time to train six days out of the week. 

As a testament to her fortitude and ability to adapt, she seems to have handled the step up from high school volleyball to college volleyball well.

“College volleyball is definitely different than high school volleyball in the ways that we train and the level at which we do so,” Thees said. “[My high school] definitely prepared me with mental toughness throughout matches that I have used in the matches thus far.”

Thees and Griffin both were recognized for their efforts against Troy and looked to parlay those efforts into victories against Georgia Southern. 

Griffin earned an All-Sun Belt second-team award at the end of her junior campaign and has been instrumental to the success and close games that Georgia State has found itself in this year. In her final year, she is looking to help lead the Lady Panthers to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, and so far, she is doing just that. 

Griffin led the Lady Panthers with an infectious energy that the team sustained for the game en route to a Georgia State sweep on Thursday. That win was punctuated by an inspired team performance where the Panthers scored seven times straight to bring the third set to the match point. Ferocious play from the front-line hitters and a never-say-die attitude were the Oct. 1 rivalry matchup theme.

The Eagles came out a lot faster and played much cleaner than the Panthers on Friday night. That renewed focus led to a three-set sweep for the Eagles to split the series even with Georgia State. Griffin was stout throughout the series with Southern. For her, each game brings her a step closer to her goals to close out her collegiate career. 

“I want to continue to be the top blocker in the conference, make All-Sun Belt first team, and I also want to be top 10 again in hitting percentage,” she said. “For my team, I want us to advance far in the conference tournament.”

So far, Griffin’s senior year looks solid: Georgia State as a team leads the Sun Belt conference with 37 total blocks, and Griffin leads the conference with 20 of them.

The Lady Panthers are back in action against Coastal Carolina on Friday and Saturday in the Georgia State Sports Arena.