Lauren Hurst's second year of high school has been notable for some outstanding firsts.
Months after helping Cleveland win its first-ever TSSAA team state championship in girls' athletics, she received a prestigious individual honor for her elite showcase of power on the volleyball court.
On Friday, Gatorade announced Hurst as its 2022-23 volleyball player of the year in Tennessee, recognition that followed her leading the Lady Blue Raiders to a 49-5 overall record last fall as they swept all 27 of their sets in postseason play on their way to the championship.
The 6-foot-2 outside hitter — who is also a second team MaxPreps.com All-American — amassed 647 kills, 354 digs, 94 aces and 61 blocks, along with an incredible .438 kill percentage on the attack. She was part of a standout lineup that included seniors Addison Hurst — the 5-foot-9 outside hitter is Lauren's sister — and setter Kinslee McGowan.
"I was really excited and surprised that I won this award," said Hurst, who found out after her weightlifting class Friday. "It's really awesome to be able to achieve something like this, considering I am only a sophomore.
"I couldn't have done it without my coaches Amy McGowan, Daniel Millsaps and my team. My sister Addison and star setter Kinslee pushed me every day to get better. They all have helped me get to where I am today."
The Hurst sisters combined for 45 kills in the Class AAA state final, a 3-0 win against Collierville at Siegel High School on Oct. 21.
Gatorade's release announcing the award noted it "recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court" by student-athletes. To go along with her outstanding athletic achievements, Lauren also has a 3.75 GPA and has volunteered as a youth volleyball coach while helping out many community services through her church, according to the release.
Hurst is not only the first Cleveland volleyball player to receive the award but the first winner from a Chattanooga-area public school. GPS senior Hannah Shadrick in 2007-08) and Baylor sophomore Gabby Gray in 2014-15 are previous honorees from the area.
Hurst is now in the running for Gatorade's national volleyball honor, which will be announced later this month.
Cleveland reached the state tournament with a win against Murfreesboro's Oakland, which was 28-6 to that point, and Lady Patriots coach Avei Logoleo took note of Hurst's versatility, saying she "was dominant in our sectional match and absolutely everywhere on the floor," according to the release.
"She would hit outside in one rotation and at middle the next. Then she would go back row and play excellent defense and still put the ball away with aggressive attacks," Logoleo added. "I was really impressed with her ability to see the court and execute."
Hurst has received major interest from NCAA Division I programs as both a volleyball and basketball recruit.
The long list of interested colleges for volleyball includes Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Virginia, Auburn, Kansas, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Liberty, Texas Tech, South Carolina, Southern California, Kentucky and Louisville. She has basketball offers from Wake Forest, Murray State, Furman, Marshall, Tennessee Tech, Presbyterian and Western Carolina.
For now, she has more ahead of her in high school after a sophomore volleyball season that set a lofty standard.
"This year has meant so much to all of us. We came in with the mindset that no one was going to take a set from us," Hurst said. "We won our first-ever state team title for girls in the whole school, and it was awesome getting to do that with my sister. Especially since it was her senior year. Getting to celebrate with her was awesome and something I will never forget."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com.