No matter who the coach was for the 2019 season, the Edgewood volleyball program knew it had expectations of a state championship. The Wildcats turned to former Eastwood coach Hannah Josey and she stepped in without missing a beat, leading Edgewood to an unbeaten season capped off with the perfect ending.
“It was amazing for me,” Josey said. “Not many coaches get to step into a program like this. I knew I came in at a good time. The best thing was this team was just fun to be around and obviously they were very talented.”
Josey is the 2019 Elmore County Volleyball Coach of the Year.
Edgewood is no stranger to winning state championships but the Wildcats finished off their first perfect season as the championship over Glenwood pushed their record to 27-0. It was the fourth consecutive state title appearance and third time the Wildcats walked away with the trophy in that span.
With the recent success of the program, Josey knew the expectations were high and there were some nerves entering her first year with the Wildcats.
“I did feel a little bit of pressure just to maintain their success,” Josey said. “What (former Edgewood coach) Sellers Dubberley did here was amazing. But once I got settled in, we just made it our own and it all worked out.”
While Josey knows it was a good situation for a new coach, it was clear Edgewood knew it found the right person for the job.
“We saw the job she had done at Eastwood and how she carried herself on the sideline,” Edgewood athletic director Darryl Free said. “I had a very short list of people I wanted but after she interviewed, I stopped the search. We knew we had the person we needed.”
After missing out on the perfect season due to a loss to Macon-East in the 2018 title game, it was clear the Wildcats were holding on to that loss until they got revenge. The biggest hurdle for Josey was finding the balance between using that as motivation without staying too focused on the past.
“I knew they were going to keep that championship in the back of their minds,” Josey said. “But I also knew the only way we would lose is if we beat ourselves. So, I think a lot of this season was mental and we just had to pull together to play as a team.”
It worked well for most of the season but when the Wildcats faced a similar situation in the championship match, Josey told her players to put last year out of their minds. Edgewood turned around a two-set deficit and knocked off the Gators in five sets to claim the state title. Josey once again said a lot of that was mental for the Wildcats.
“It kind of gives you a different perspective,” Josey said. “You can coach X’s and O’s all day but working with their mental state is different. I’m more of an encouraging coach. I allow mistakes as long as it’s not about being lazy but you can’t let one mistake hurt the rest of your game.”
After just one season, it will be hard for the Wildcats to top it as Josey’s time at Edgewood continues. However, she is not worried about that and already has goals for the 2020 season.
“Hopefully another perfect season — that’s always the goal,” Josey said. “You never want to lose a game.”