SPRING GARDEN – Spring Garden volleyball coach Ricky Austin calls senior volleyball outside hitter Haleigh Molock’s right arm her ‘heavy arm.’
Molock’s powerful swings with that right arm have served the Lady Panthers well since she began playing on the varsity team in the eighth grade. That arm served Spring Garden well again, even with a move up in classification last season. Molock posted 310 kills, 65 aces and 65 assists as the Lady Panthers (35-10) returned to the Final Four.
Molock’s ‘heavy arm’ isn’t through swinging yet. She has committed to play volleyball at Snead State next year.
“Obviously, she’s been given some talent, but she works really, really hard,” Austin said. “She lives less than a half a mile from me. Every time I go by her house in the summertime, if she’s not swinging at a volleyball in her back yard, she’s doing some type of hard, physical work with posthole diggers building something. You wouldn’t picture that with her, but she’s always doing something productive when I see her out and about. That’s kind of the way she’s always played the game.”
The way Molock has played the game is something the other Cherokee County volleyball coaches took notice of last season. They recently rewarded her with their All-County Most Valuable Player honor.
“Our whole county has really stepped it up in volleyball. Anybody could have gotten this honor. I’m just glad they thought I was deserving of it. I’m thankful for it,” Molock said. “I’m just thankful for the Spring Garden community, my family, my teammates, and Coach Rat for giving me opportunities. I wouldn’t have been able to get this without them pushing me.”
But make no mistake. There’s more to Molock than just her ‘heavy arm.’
“What’s amazed me about her is she’s played herself to total exhaustion several times,” Austin said. “That’s the way she’s practiced every day. We’ve played in some tournaments on weekends to where she literally had to be toted out of the gym. She literally plays herself to exhaustion. That’s so rare these days.
“A lot of kids just want to get to that uncomfortable point and stop, but uncomfortable never bothered her. She pushed on and on. She could hide it so well from me sometimes I wouldn’t realize it until it was too late. She has an amazing heart and ability and drive to want to be successful. I’m thankful I’ve gotten to coach somebody like that. I feel like we’ve built our volleyball program to a stronger level because of her. You’ve got to say she’s been the centerpiece of it the last three or four years.”
Molock said she’s just tried to do her best in everything her team needed her to do for it to be successful.
“I remember before we got Coach Rat (Austin), I asked him if he had anything to help me be able to jump higher, and he gave me a jump program,” Molock said. “It’s tough, but it built mental strength up in me so I could use it during games.
“Coach Rat has always motivated me to do better. He’s been tough on me, but he’s given me the motivation to keep wanting to be better. My teammates also really motivate me and keep me focused. I have to keep driving myself to be better and work extra.”
That extra work helped the Lady Panthers earn back-to-back trips to Birmingham and Final Four berths, in two classes no less.
“I remember one of the first practices (last season), talking about how we wanted to prove everybody wrong, that we were going to make it back (to the Final Four) in 2A,” Molock said. “It just felt like everybody didn’t think we would make it back because of the class move up. We wanted to compete, so we really wanted to step up our game.”
Led by Molock, the Lady Panthers did just that.
“When I hear a lot of people tell me how they scouted us (last season), her name always gets brought up first,” Austin said. “That’s probably been that way for three years now. She’s had a great impact on our program. She’s been so fun to coach. She’s never once in a practice or a game, under any conditions, took a play off, no matter the situation. That’s what I call having a motor. Her motor just lights up when it comes to volleyball. You’ve got to have those players.
“You can have a lot of skill. You can have a lot of talent. You can have a lot of leadership. You can have all of that, but you’ve got to have one, two or more who has a motor that runs continuously. She’s been that, and I do directly think that not only has she affected our team with her motor, but she’s affected me as a coach. She’s made me work really hard and made it fun for me.”
Joining Molock from Spring Garden on the All-County Volleyball Team is junior setter/outside hitter Neely Welsh and junior setter Abbey Steward. Welsh posted 355 assists, 184 kills and 27 blocks. Steward contributed 517 assists and 84 aces.
Sand Rock (29-11) also had three selections in junior libero Caley Garrett, senior outside hitter Hannah Davis and junior middle hitter Lanie Henderson. Garrett collected 710 digs, 66 assists, 19 aces and five kills. Davis delivered 334 kills, 327 digs, 29 aces, 18 blocks and three assists. Henderson had 225 kills, 95 digs, 43 blocks, 34 aces and five assists.
Cedar Bluff (16-15) had three selections in senior middle hitter Russell Givens, junior left side/outside hitter Jordyn Walker and junior outside hitter Maggie Clowdis. Givens accumulated 233 kills, 42 blocks, 35 aces and 29 digs. Walker managed 167 digs, 152 kills and 34 aces. Clowdis came away with 379 assists, 76 kills, 66 digs and 42 aces.
The Cherokee County Lady Warriors had a pair of selections in sophomore outside hitter/middle blocker Ella Garmany and senior middle blocker Madeline Ware. Garmany posted 130 kills, 106 digs, 21 blocks and 21 aces. Ware had 63 kills and 21 blocks.
Senior setter Chelsey Cagle represents Gaylesville. She collected 86 assists, 64 digs, 41 aces and seven kills for the Lady Trojans last season.
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