Lady HurricanesView 13 Photos
Standing 6 feet tall, East Hamilton senior Hillary English took flight at the net and saw the open spot on the left sideline, where she slammed home a kill in the first set of the District 6-AA volleyball tournament final.
The multi-threat Lady Hurricanes came out firing to key a 3-0 road sweep of Hixson as their senior setter flashed her versatility. The set scores were 25-15, 25-20, 25-21.
While English knows she will never pace the team in kills, her big-hitting and blocking ability is a cherry-on-top to her precise passing. She collected four of her team's 14 blocks while adding 21 assists and four kills without a hitting error.
"My goal is to help my team get to the state tournament again," said English, who has helped East Hamilton (23-10) advance to the Class AA state tournament each of the past two years. "I enjoy playing front row on top of being able to set my teammates for success. Still, to be able to kill it or block the ball in someone's face is the best feeling."
Sophomore middle Madison Allen helped build a quick double-digit lead in the first set and combined with English for a signature stuff in the second.
After closing out the district championship with her match-high 12th kill, recent Mississippi State basketball commitment Madison Hayes spoke highly of Allen, who finished with nine kills and five blocks.
"I feel like we have more defense and energy this year," said Hayes, whose sophomore sister McKenna provided six kills and two blocks. "We play with more aggression, and that's what you need to have if you want to go far. The way Maddie plays is hard. Playing hard really pays off."
Going up against the area's leader in kills, Madison Hayes helped return powerful hits with the back line to hold Hixson senior Abby Rector to seven kills.
Rector recently surpassed the all-time kills mark in Lady Wildcats history and is close to 1,600 in her career.
Hixson (34-12) scrapped and clawed in the second and third sets and received strong service from Jenna Westfall, who is up to 120 aces this year.
"Playing East Hamilton builds us up for these other teams we will be playing," Hixson coach Robert Catlett said. "We don't have to play them in a sectional game, so I think our chances of getting to state are pretty good. It's all about bringing it and being versatile. Our girls can do it, and I have tons of confidence in them."
With English helping set up East Hamilton's big hitters and ready to strike whenever she can as well, she is a coach's dream.
"I told our girls we are going to go all out this postseason," Lady Hurricanes coach Kelsey Kelley said. "Hillary played awesome tonight. She is one of our best servers, and she is great at the net. She plays with a fire, and our girls look for her to get us started."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.