Lady Hawks return key players from No. 3-in-state team

HARDIN VALLEY — Hardin Valley Academy’s volleyball team made its first-ever trip to the Class AAA State Tournament in Murfreesboro in 2016.

The Lady Hawks finished third and were eliminated by District 4-AAA rival Farragut. The HVA players make it no secret that they want to make a return to the midstate.

“Last year was the first time that we made it to the state and we’re trying to get back,” said Lady Hawks senior setter Alex Kirby. “We have a lot of our starters back and we’re doing a lot of the same things in practice that we did last year.”

Hardin Valley, which went 33-11 in 2016 and was the District 4-AAA and Region 2-AAA Tournament runner-up, made it to the grand stage. The Lady Hawks had five losses to Farragut last season. The Lady Admirals swept a pair of regular-season games and claimed the District 4-AAA and Region 2-AAA Tournament titles with wins over HVA.

Farragut, which hasn’t lost a regular-season district match in four years, has made four consecutive trips to Murfreesboro.

“They’re our rivals and they’ve set the bar pretty high,” Kirby said of the Lady Admirals. “But we’re looking to get back to state and we’re wanting to go a little further.

“We just need to work on our service game and our passing.”

Fellow senior Mandy Prescott agreed.

“This year, for us, I think we have a very good chance to get back to the state,” said Prescott, an outside hitter for the Lady Hawks. “Those trips to Murfreesboro never get old and we really want to go back.

“We always knew that we could make it to state. But last year, I think we proved that we were capable of getting there and playing with those types of tough teams.”

Hardin Valley has proven it can compete with some of the state’s top teams. Throughout school history the Lady Hawks have played in both District 3-AAA and District 4-AAA. Both have had top teams over the years, but District 4 has been the dominant league over the last several years.

District 4 has undergone a facelift as West High and Bearden [which was a competitive force before falling upon hard times in 2016] are now gone. South-Doyle enters the district fray in 2017.

But the league still has Heritage, Farragut, Maryville and William Blount and is still arguably the most competitive league in the Volunteer State.

And that’s just the way Mitzi McCurry, Hardin Valley’s third-year head coach, likes it.

“I think it makes us better to play all of these top teams,” she said. “This is the only thing that will make us better.

“We have to challenge ourselves by playing the best.”

The Lady Hawks have several players back who went to the state tournament in 2016.

“We have some seasoned players and I expect us to be competitive throughout the year,” McCurry said.

Top returners for the Lady Hawks include: Kirby; Prescott; Isabella Mitchell (senior, libero); Jericka Emert (senior, middle blocker) and Drew Brooks (junior, outside hitter).

Key newcomers are: Megan Smith (junior, setter); Olivia Snyder (sophomore, setter) and Courtney Coffy (junior, right-side player).

While the Lady Hawks have a savvy nucleus of veterans and a talented crop of newcomers, McCurry said her squad must learn to handle the adversity that comes with the grind that is a grueling high school volleyball season.

“We need to be more resilient,” McCurry said. “We need to learn how to play and how to react when things don’t go our way.

“We need to learn how to handle adversity.”

Hardin Valley opened its 2017 campaign Tuesday, Aug. 15, when it travels to play Oak Ridge.