LAMP enjoys new volleyball digs with first-ever home win
By Tim Gayle
Sept. 21, 2017 was a red-letter day in LAMP athletics.
The Golden Tigers held their first-ever athletic event in their own facility as they played host to Montgomery Catholic in a volleyball game on Thursday night. And to cap off the event, LAMP’s players made it count by beating the Knights 25-23, 17-25, 21-25, 25-14 and 15-13, touching off a wild celebration among their students.
“We had a great crowd,” first-year LAMP coach Dee Wilson said, referring to her boisterous group of supporters as “loud and proud LAMPers.
"We couldn’t have had better support on our first night here. The whole school was anticipating this opening night so that was big for us.”
The school has never had its own athletic facilities. The magnet school started in 1984 on the upper floor of Lanier High School and finally moved to its own facility – the former Loveless Elementary School on West Jeff Davis Street – in 1999.
The following year, the school started athletics, borrowing the Loveless Community Center gym from the city for basketball and volleyball while practicing baseball and softball in a vacant lot next to the school, a lot on Oak Street that once was occupied by houses and had no fences for boundaries and trees that occupied center field.
The school building was condemned in 2015 and LAMP moved into the vacant Houston Hill Junior High building on Hall Street while continuing to practice athletics – and play volleyball and basketball — on West Jeff Davis.
The new facility opened at OneCenter in the old Montgomery Mall facility in August, but the volleyball team continued to practice on West Jeff Davis until moving into the new gym on Sept. 6. A match with Lanier was postponed because of Hurricane Irma, changing its grand opening to Thursday night versus Catholic.
“We only had five home games and that canceled one of them,” senior Queniecia Page said. “This is the first one. It feels amazing that we have a set building from now on. Our gym is ours. No one can take it from us.”
And the Golden Tigers played like they had a home-court advantage.
For a former traveling band of academic whizzes who have struggled in a region that includes state tournament participants St. James and Alabama Christian, Trinity and Catholic, LAMP showed renewed dedication on Thursday, winning the first match by the barest of margins, dropping the second and third sets, then rallying to win the last two as their fans became louder with each point before spilling out onto the court after the victory was secured.
“It feels really great,” Page said. “We played with a lot of heart. We were down at times but we picked it up and played as a team and it helped us in the end.”
Part of it is the enthusiasm and work ethic of LAMP’s new coach, who joined the athletic staff last year as an assistant.
“New coach, new gym, everything,” Page said. “You play in a gym that looks great, you play great. And our coach played volleyball her entire high school career, her whole college career. She really brought it to our team.”
Wilson returned the compliment, saying the players deserve all the accolades.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids because they have done everything I’ve asked,” she said. “They work extremely hard. They want to make this program very, very successful and I feel like they’re doing everything right to get it there. For me, it’s a joy. I feel so blessed. The kids are what makes this such a joy.”
For Catholic, Ansley Dean had 15 kills, four aces and four blocks, Katherine O’Connor had eight kills and Melody Taylor had 25 assists. The Knights return to action on Tuesday against Trinity.
For LAMP, Claire Conway had 10 kills, Alexis Card had 10 kills, Page had seven kills and 11 digs, Anika Clark had 29 assists and Cassie Meyer had seven aces. On this night, the home-court advantage belonged to the Golden Tigers.
“It’s an amazing facility,” Wilson said. “It was like new life to our team when we finally got the go-ahead to practice in here. It was like a brand-new experience. The intensity in the gym increased dramatically because this is ours.
"I had one player begging to sweep the floor after practice. They just cherish this. They’re so proud of what they have. And they should be.
“If everyone could see their excitement and their drive when they’re given these things, you’d want to give them everything.”