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Danville High’s Holly LIttle, left, and Lauren Simmons are The Daily’s all-area volleyball coach and player of the year, respectively.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Danville High’s Holly LIttle, left, and Lauren Simmons are The Daily’s all-area volleyball coach and player of the year, respectively.

Danville’s Simmons, Little elite in volleyball

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com· 340-2460

For the Danville High volleyball team, the only thing more difficult than making the state tournament last season might have been a return trip this year.

At least that’s what Danville coach Holly Little and senior middle hitter Lauren Simmons believe.

“This year was definitely much harder because last year nobody expected us to be there,” Little said.

“We were proud to make it back to Pelham. It’s a lot harder to make it back sometimes.”

After finishing runner-up in Class 3A last season as a virtual unknown, expectations rose for the Lady Hawks. They had to face the pressure of being a team to beat.

With Little and Simmons leading the way, Danville responded with a Class 3A, Area 13 championship, a regional championship, a 54-24 overall record and a repeat appearance in the state tournament, where the Lady Hawks reached the semifinals.

For their efforts, The Daily is honoring Simmons as its player of the year and Little as coach of the year.

“Everyone knew exactly who we were going to, so they keyed on Lauren,” Little said. “A player like her is something special. It’s fun to coach her and fun to watch her play.”

The 6-foot-1 Simmons finished her career with 2,790 kills, 313 aces, 352 blocks, and 464 digs.

According to the AHSAA Web site, her kills top the state’s career list. As for college volleyball, she has received interest from North Alabama and Montevallo, among others.

For the year, Simmons gave the Lady Hawks 1,036 kills, 105 aces, 132 blocks and 177 digs.

Her single-game high of 52 kills came in a regular season match against Colbert County this year, and according to the AHSAA Web site, that tops the state individual mark of 44 set in 2002.

“Her teammates were very proud, but she just wanted to play,” Little said. “(The records) weren’t her focus.”

Little said that Simmons doesn’t rely solely on her height. But Little said extra work in the off season helped keep Simmons from being one-dimensional and allowed her to offer much more than a towering presence to the Lady Hawks.

“She’s an all-around volleyball player,” Little said. “She can hit, she can serve, she blocks, she can play defense — anything you need her to do. Her defense was as strong a part of her game as any, which is unusual for a middle hitter. Her defense was solid.”

Little said Simmons’ improvement in her all-around game is what kept her on top against some tough competition this season. Aside from area games within 3A, the schedule matched her Lady Hawks against 5A and 6A teams.

“I’ve worked real hard every year to try to get better and improve. ... This season, I wanted to be a leader for the team and, of course, we wanted to win,” Simmons said.

Winning, Little pointed out, was more difficult this season. With a beefed-up schedule and injuries throughout the 78-match season, it took another level of commitment from the Lady Hawks to find success.

“Fighting through the injuries and trying to improve every time we took the court,” Little said. “That was a big accomplishment this season.”

Little said she also surrounded herself with plenty of quality help, including assistant coach Spencer Cole, whom she said the program could not do without.

“He’s such a good instructor, and he’s so important to our program. He’s helped us get where we are,” Little said.

“It has been a great year, and I’m just so proud of them and everything they were able to do.”

And, of course, she appreciates what her players did this season, especially the 12th-graders.

“The chemistry of our seniors this season is what’s going to be missed. They really did love volleyball,” Little said.

Daily volleyball honors

Players of the year

2006: Lauren Simmons, Danville
2005: Chelaine McCarty, Addison
2004: Jordan Kent, Austin
2003: Kristen Bramlett, Brewer
2002: Danielle Berryman, Hatton

Coaches of the year

2006: Holly Little, Danville
2005: Paul Wilkins, Addison
2004: Paul Wilkins, Addison
2003: Mary Jane Hobbs, Elkmont
2002: Rebecca Lee, Hatton

Daily all-area volleyball team

Player of the year: Lauren Simmons, Danville

Coach of the year: Holly Little, Danville

First team

Kayla Amerine, Brewer, Sr.: A middle hitter, she helped the Lady Patriots reached the state tournament this season for the first time. Gave Brewer 383 kills, a team-leading 442 blocks, 72 digs and 137 aces.

Cara Beasley, Austin, Sr.: Averaged eight kills a game at outside hitter. Also considered an excellent passer and the Lady Black Bears’ most consistent server.

Genie Browning, Brewer, Sr.: A setter for the Lady Patriots, she had 884 assists. Also added 78 digs.

Amanda Butts, Austin, Sr.: Averaged 15 assists a match and more than 50 assists a tournament. The setter and team captain, she also was the team’s leadoff server. Made honorable mention all-area in 2005.

Sierra Caudle, Athens, Sr.: Won the Lady Golden Eagles’
most valuable player honor. Has played an important role for Athens for several seasons, making all-area in 2004 and 2005.

Andrea Crawford, Brewer, Sr.: Putting in time at outside hitter and defensive specialist for the Lady Patriots this season, had a team-best 728 kills along with 208 blocks, 260 digs and 149 aces. Team leader was driving force as Brewer advanced to the state tournament this season. Made honorable mention all-area in 2005.

Lauren Drake, Hartselle, Sr.: As an outside hitter, she had a team-leading 561 kills as Hartselle reached the state tournament this season for the first time. Also contributed 357 digs and 60 blocks. Made all-area in 2005.

Bethany Evans, Danville, Sr.: As the Lady Hawks’ setter, she had 1,294 assists as Danville finished third in the state tournament this season. Finished her career with 3,331 assists, which lands her fourth on the state career list on the AHSAA Web site. Her 379 aces will be second on the Web site’s list of career leaders. Made all-area in 2005.

Alaina Fitzgerald, Danville, Jr.: A middle hitter for the
Lady Hawks, she had 581 kills. Also contributed 117 aces, 80 blocks and 290 digs. Made honorable mention all-area in 2005.

Jamie Lack, Elkmont, Jr.: Elkmont’s main threat on the court, she had 400 kills and 260 blocks. A middle hitter, she paced Elkmont to the Limestone County and Class 3A, Area 15
championships. Made honorable mention all-area in 2005.

Brooke Lee, Addison, Sr.: Had 460 kills at middle hitter as the Lady Bulldogs finished second at the state tournament. Also gave Addison 100 blocks and 79 aces. Made honorable mention all-area in 2005.

Kirsten McClure, Athens Bible, Sr.: As a setter, her 1,030 assists helped the Lady Trojans advance to the state tournament.
Also gave Athens Bible 228 digs and 54 aces. Made all-area in 2005.

Abbie Melvin, Athens Bible, Jr.: Had 632 kills and made state tourney’s all-tournament squad. Also contributed a team-best 354 digs, 110 aces, and 70 blocks. Made all-area in 2005 and honorable mention in 2004.

Kayla Orr, Hartselle, Sr.: A setter, she had 1,384 assists. She also contributed 89 aces, 31 blocks, 112 kills and 235 digs. Made all-area in 2005.

Mary Virginia Reeves, Hartselle, Sr.: A middle hitter, she had 531 kills and a team-leading 151 blocks. Also had 71 aces and 64 digs. Made state tourney’s all-tournament squad. Made honorable mention all-area in 2005.

Lauren Simmons, Danville, Sr.: Paced the Lady Hawks’ third-place finish at the state tournament, finishing with 1,036 kills, including a high of 52 kills in a regular-season match against Colbert County. Made state tourney’s all-tournament squad. Her 2,790 career kills set a state record this season, according to statistics provided on the AHSAA Web site. The middle hitter also had 105 aces, 132 blocks and 177 digs. Made all-area in 2004 and ’05.

Michelle Tillman, Brewer, Sr.: Came on strong to finish the season, she played outside hitter and contributed 462 kills, 126 blocks and 66 digs.

Jessy Willingham, Addison, Jr.: An outside hitter, she had
a team-leading 710 kills as Addison advanced to the state
tournament. Made state tourney’s all-tournament squad.
Also led the team in aces with 98 and had 115 blocks and
330 digs. Made all-area in 2005 and honorable mention
in 2004.

Kayla Woodard, Addison, Sr.: A defensive specialist for the
Lady Bulldogs, she had 797 digs. Made the all-area team in 2005.

Kayla Woodruff, Lawrence County, Sr.: An outside hitter, she had 309 kills for the Lawrence County and Class 4A, Area 14 champions. Also had 159 digs and 38 aces. Made honorable mention all-area in 2005.

Honorable mention

Addison: Kayla Carden, Kali Lake, Shanna Smith, Britney Taylor, Haley Wiggins; Athens Bible: Christina Ivey; Austin: Shara Foster, Britney Smith; Danville: Kassie Cowart; Decatur: Whitney Fletcher; Decatur Heritage: Marley Schmid; East Limestone: Edrea Danielly, Erin Fudge, Rachael Stander; Elkmont: Brooke Pressnell, Bailee Robinson, Emily Sutton; Falkville: Laura Holladay; Hartselle: Emily Roden;
Hatton: Kaitlyn Fleming, Chloe Malone, Tamra Terry; Hazlewood: Chasitey Garner, Amber Jones, Jasmine Patton; Lawrence County: Olivia Coffey, Brigitte Grimes, Autumn Lane, Shae Lane, Nakia McDaniel, Summer Wilkerson; Priceville: Caitlin Williams; Speake: Paige Atkins, Kylie Black, Sarah Bolan, Malea Hensley;
Tanner: Ashley Hines, Haley Keenum, Cecily Woods; West Morgan: Kelley Seal, Heather Kent; West Limestone: Elizabeth Dison
.

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