The accomplishments have not stopped for Polk County’s volleyball team since its state playoff semifinal loss to Community School of Davidson, helping ease the sting of that setback.
The Wolverines collected almost all of the hardware the Western Highlands Conference had to offer, sweeping player and coach of the year honors and placing a starting lineup’s worth of players on the all-conference squad. All-area and all-region honors are sure to follow soon.
All of which has proven trophy therapy for a group still smarting from that four-set loss to CSD, who went on to win the state 1A championship in straight sets over Roxboro Community.
“The season was great. We learned a lot and grew a lot,” said Polk County head coach Molly Hill. “I’m really proud of the girls and everything we accomplished.
“There were a lot of little things, like six girls making all-conference, which is great. Reagan (Waddell) was named player of the year, which is great. I won coach of the year, which is great.
“But you always have some disappointment when you’re that close, especially when we were the only true public school left. We kind of feel like we let everyone down because we had so many people supporting us.”
Polk County finished the season 23-4, setting a school record for victories, and reached the regional championship game for just the second time in school history and the first as a 1A program. The Wolverines didn’t drop a set in winning the WHC regular-season title and won 17 straight matches at one point.
Yet none of that came easy for the Wolverines or Hill, who had to juggle lineups throughout the middle of Polk County’s schedule due to sidelined players.
“We had a lot of hiccups,” Hill said. “We had a lot of injuries. There was a day when I sat here during my planning period and I made out 15 different starting lineups, depending upon who would be cleared and who would be healthy.
“It was a good thing, obviously, that we had a big team and I had some options. But it stressed me out.”
Helping to reduce Hill’s worries during the season were the three seniors at the heart of Polk County’s lineup.
Waddell finished the season with 369 kills, 433 digs and 49 service aces, capping a career in which she surpassed both 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs. She ranked second among state 1A players in kills and fifth in digs, according to MaxPreps data.
Kendall Hall’s 627 digs led all state 1A players and ranked fourth in all classes. She closed her career with 2,349 digs. Lauren Ketwitz led all WHC players in assists with 404.
“Those three seniors played a huge role in showing a lot of leadership to the younger girls,” Hill said. “The big thing with Reagan is that she hammered so many points for us. We could always count on her to get the last-point kill when we needed it.
“Kendall is probably one of the best passers I’ve ever seen. She’s got so much natural talent. She’s worn that libero jersey for all four years I’ve been here.”
All three seniors earned all-conference honors, joined by Grace Lauer, Ansley Lynch and Mireya Roman.
“Grace grew so much from last season,” Hill said. “I went out on maternity leave on Dec. 12, and when I came back two months later to watch the team play in the club season, I said whoa, Grace. She had gotten strong and gotten comfortable.
“We saw a lot from Ansley block-wise, and Mireya really stepped it up in the middle.”
All three of those players return and will figure heavily in Polk County’s plans next season in replacing Waddell’s production. Sydney Waldman, Kristen Hall and Marilyn Castillo will team to fill the setter position manned by Ketwitz. Hall’s spot may be up for grabs into next season, with Alex Romano and Karla Olguin among the returnees in the mix.
Marissa Twitty, Carolina Castillo, Sydney Metcalf and Meadow Becker will also be part of a squad that could have just two seniors, Lynch and Lauer, next season.
“I saw glimpses of hope from a lot of different people,” Hill said. “It’s going to be competitive, especially at the libero position. There are definitely some big shoes to fill for those upperclassmen.”
Hill has already begun thinking about next season, but she’ll have another team on her mind this winter as well. Polk County Volleyball Club will return for another season with plans to field four teams – 12-year-olds, coached by PCHS assistant Jon Ezell; 13s, coached by Hill; and two high school teams, coached by Kenny and Donna Hall, with Waddell and Kendall Hall also assisting.
PCVC’s growth has helped fuel rising interest in the sport in Polk County, part of Hill’s vision when she took over the Wolverine program four seasons ago.
“PCVC has been great,” he said. “It’s great for the girls to stay together and play year-round together. It’s so good for team development. The program is definitely growing and getting bigger.
“When I came here, I wanted to put Polk County on the map. I wanted people to know who we are. I think we’ve done that.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story omitted Sydney Metcalf’s name from the list of returning players. We sincerely apologize for the error.