With a strong junior class complimenting Hardin Valley Academy’s quartet of senior star talent, a second straight trip to the Class AAA Volleyball State Tournament was a walk in the park.
“We lost some talent last year, but I think the girls that came in this year as juniors really, like, helped our team and built us up,” senior setter Alex Kirby said following a 25-15, 25-11, 25-10 win against Volunteer in the Section 1-AAA “substate” match Thursday, Oct. 12, at HVA.
Attempting to improve upon a third-place state finish last season, the Lady Hawks take a 37-7 record to this week’s state tournament in Murfreesboro [state championship round today, Thursday, Oct. 19].
Mitzi McCurry, HVA head coach, also spoke about that “core group of juniors” including Drew Brooks, outside hitter. “She has moments where, if other people are struggling, she can pick our team up with her hitting and her passing,” McCurry added about Brooks, who ended the match with 15 service points, nine digs and six kills.
Morgan Smithson, middle hitter, “comes through with some big blocks and hits when we need them,” McCurry said. “Damie Givens is another junior that gets playing time, she’s our right-side [hitter].”
Savannah Bowen [10 service points, two aces] “has had a lot of different roles this season. But whatever role it’s been, she’s been an encouragement to the team,” McCurry said.
As a server, “She has just really been scoring points for us,” the coach added.
Courtney Coffy added eight digs and eight service points for the District 3-AAA and Region 2-AAA champs.
Overall, “It’s more than volleyball, they love each other,” McCurry said about her team. “The girls have been awesome to coach and be around this year.
“It’s really neat to have such a group of girls and coaches that we enjoy being around each other.”
“We’re such a family, so anytime we come together it’s always so much love. All of our hard work pays off,” said Jerika Emert, senior middle hitter who had HVA’s only block last Thursday.
For all the team’s balance, it was three All-Region seniors leading the way versus Volunteer: outside hitter Mandy Prescott [18 kills, 11 points, seven digs and two aces], libero Isabella Mitchell [nine digs] and Kirby, setter, [six digs].
“I think that we came into this season with just a fighting heart, and I think that it really showed in every single match that we played,” Prescott said. “That we had a drive united to win every match, including Webb and Brentwood,” three-time defending state champs in Division II-A and Class AAA, respectively.
“We have a vision to win state, and I think that has led us through this season,” she added.
“We knew that our goal was to get to state, and we knew we had to play like it was our last game,” Mitchell said.
While ending with a perfect record at home this season, Mitchell added, “We also haven’t lost a set at home this whole season.
“Last year really set a foundation for this year,” Kirby said. “We know how we had to work, that it had to be the same as last year.”