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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Reeltown's Kenzie Hornsby (20) jumps up for a kill.

In just its third season as a volleyball program, Reeltown had a great shot of advancing to the Class 2A South Super Regionals. The Rebels put together their best regular season to date and wrapped up the No. 2 seed in Class 2A Area 8.

But the area was incredibly evenly matched and it made for a tough go of it for all four teams at the area tournament at Central Coosa on Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Rebels, they came up against a much-improved Fayetteville team and came up just short of advancing. The Wolves won the season, ending Reeltown’s year with a 13-17 record. 

“After the match, I really told them that this was only the third season,” Reeltown coach Kelli Hilyer said. “I talked to them about how each season the record has improved and this year, there was a huge jump in wins and decrease in losses from the previous season. That’s all you can ask is they get better every year. I was very proud of them and this season was definitely a great season.”

Fayetteville and Reeltown split during the regular season and both matches went five sets, so the Rebels knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. But the Wolves came out extremely strong, winning the first set, 25-15.

“You could definitely tell Fayetteville improved over the season and especially at the end,” Hilyer said. “That’s when you want your team to start excelling. They looked really good.”

The second set was a back and forth battle, but the Rebels gutted it out and won, 27-25, to tie up the match. Although Fayetteville won the next two in a row to complete the victory, Reeltown kept it close in both. The Rebels fell, 25-19 and 25-22.

“I just think reading the ball a little bit better would’ve helped,” Hilyer said. “We did good with our serves and attacking the ball. One of the timeouts, I told the girls that we needed to start mixing things up a little bit because they’re expecting pass, set, hit, which is the strength of our offense. 

“I said, ‘Let’s tip the ball and do different things to throw their defense off a little bit.’ That helped us score a few points. I think we played very well; it just didn’t go our way.” 

Reeltown will be graduating a key group of seniors which includes Taniya Haynes, Eryn Wells, Gabbie Williams, Kylie Bowins, Nylan Hayden and Diyanna Newton. All of them except Newton have been with the Rebel volleyball program since it began, and the most impressive part of that senior group is how much it has taken the team under its wing.

Not only have the seniors learned an entirely new sport — one that’s not easy to teach or grasp from scratch — they’ve also started to become coaches on the court to the younger girls.

“It really was more athlete-led this year,” Hilyer said. “I had a couple of them ask me if we could change a few of our defensive coverages and see if that works.

“They definitely took a huge leadership role. On any team, you’re going to get better if it is athlete-led instead of me having to yell and scream. I would much rather talk strategy and fine tune things and they take care of the leadership on the court and hold each other responsible.” 

Despite those losses, Hilyer is excited for the future as the Rebels have a strong nucleus coming back as well as several JV players who have shown a lot of improvement this season.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.