High School Volleyball
Heritage School gaining ground after trip to GISA semis
by Chris Goltermann
The Heritage School’s volleyball program, while still in its infancy, proved to be quite the big girl last season — one that in several instances proved the Lady Hawks may be ready to challenge their closest rivals for the Georgia Independent Schools Association’s top prize following a trip to the GISA Final Four.
And Heritage, which hosts this year’s state tournament for the first time, may like nothing better than to keep the trophy from leaving the floor of its new gym.
With three All-Region standouts, two of which also earned All-State honors, among a majority of returning starters, there’s reason to feel that the program can again pose a threat to a league that despite a recent downsizing, retains seven of last year’s eight quarterfinalists out of Class AAA.
Add that to two key additions that expect to make an immediate impact to the lineup, and the outlook for the Lady Hawks remains sky high for 2014.
“The program’s numbers as a whole have never been better,” said head coach Mary Louise Hunt, who has 10 junior varsity and 17 middle school athletes to go with a dozen players on the varsity.
“We have three girls who started the program with us five years ago,” added Hunt of her seniors. “Last year was just our third varsity season and we reached the Final Four.”
Despite the loss of team captains Hailey Pierce and Emily Taylor to graduation, Heritage retains the bulk of its defensive core from last year in sophomore libero Monique Renaud and setter Hallie Hunt. Senior Isa Gutierrez also returns as a defensive specialist.
Sophomore outside hitter Karlee Groover, who along with Hunt earned All-State honors in 2013, is also back among a group of hitters that include senior Nora Powell and sophomore Zofia Powell.
Groover’s sister, Kara, should also play a key role much the way the siblings helped lead Heritage’s basketball program to a Final Four berth last year.
The lineup, meanwhile, gets an added boost from newcomers Jenny Luckie and Andrea Caseres.
Luckie, a junior transfer from Landmark Christian, helped the Lady War Eagles earn a Class A state title in 2012 while also becoming an exceptional beach volleyball talent.
“She wants to play beach volleyball in college,” Hunt said. “It’s a growing sport.”
The Heritage School coach is equally high on eighth-grader Andrea Caceres, who arrives from Trinity Middle School. Caceres is a standout outside hitter for one of Tsunami Volleyball’s three 13-year-old club teams.
This year’s remaining 29 GISA varsity programs, following reclassification, have been separated into four divisions with Heritage joining Trinity, Griffin Christian and Oak Mountain in Region 3. The top three finishers will advance to the state tournament starting Oct. 24 at Heritage.
Along with the Lady Hawks and Trinity, state finalist Augusta Prep, Young Americans of Conyers, Holy Spirit, Weber and Loganville all remain in the GISA after reaching the Class AAA Elite 8 in 2013.
Heritage will also host an invitational tournament on Sept. 26-27.