Natchez High School won volleyball tournament in 1948

Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Editors note: This story is a correction of stories written about Natchez High School Volleyball this year. They are not the first team in school history. We thank Jean Simonton for setting the record straight as she played for the Natchez volleyball team in 1948, and we regret the error.

NATCHEZ — Many people may know about the 1948 Natchez Basketball team and how Max Simonton made an interception late in the game to give the Bulldogs a Big 8 title. Jean Simonton said she was there in the crowd screaming with excitement.

What may not be as well known is Natchez high school had a boys and girls volleyball team. They won a regional tournament in 1948. Simonton was on that team which predates the current Natchez Volleyball team.

“There is not much written about volleyball,” Simonton said. “It was the most fun I ever had in my life in athletics.”

She played basketball for Natchez High before she went to Copiah Lincoln Community College and played there.

At the time, Natchez had a couple of men, Charles Harold, Lewis Miller and Rudy Case, who all supported athletics. Every basketball or volleyball game, she said she could look up into the stands and see them.

Sally Johnson, who was from Vidalia, was the coach of the girls’ volleyball team. A. I. Rexinger coached the boys’ volleyball team at Natchez High. He was a beloved coach, she said.

“I’m not sure how they got the idea,” Simonton said. “(Johnson) had decided we were going to have a volleyball team. Most of us were on the basketball team. We had to learn how to play volleyball. We didn’t know how.”

Their first season playing volleyball must have gone well because they won a regional tournament, she said. It was a title no one thought they would win, she said.

Natchez volleyball traveled out of town to play in the tournament. When they returned to Natchez, they stopped at a teenage canteen downtown, she said.

“We came home, and everyone just cheered us on,” Simonton said. “We walked into the (canteen), and everybody cheered. It was just a great night.”

Two things about volleyball stand out to her. In all of her time playing volleyball, she could not recall a player getting injured. This was not the case for any other sport she played.

Additionally, she said the simplicity of the game is what made it so enjoyable.

“All you need was a ball,” Simonton said. “You did not need anything else. You had a ball. I would practice at home. I would throw the ball somewhere and hit it back. That was one thing. The companionship and the entire athletic system in Natchez were wonderful for girls. There is a joy in athletics that is hard to explain. I just had that joy.”

Natchez has a volleyball team again and Simonton is delighted, she said.

“I had so much fun playing volleyball. I had asked before, ‘why do people not play volleyball anymore,’” Simonton said. “I never got anywhere with that. I am delighted they offer volleyball at Natchez High School now. It is a safe sport, and it provides great exercise. It is great for sportsmanship and making friends.”