Although I enjoy the sport, I can’t honestly say volleyball is my passion. But it was Al Stern’s passion, and that’s why this is dedicated to him.
Al died in February at age 84, and I’m sorry he isn’t here to see this tradition revived. I wrote about Al when he was the Island Packet’s Coach of the Year after leading the Bobcats to their first state championship, and now I’m honoring the Lowco’s best volleyball coach and players again via LowcoSports.com.
Al would have been proud — he was proud — to see all the talent the local volleyball scene is producing. He had a big hand in building the Lowcountry Volleyball Club and helping the sport grow in the area.
Without further ado, here it is, the inaugural All-Lowco Volleyball Team presented by Patrick Mason and Southern Lifestyle Properties and dedicated to Al Stern.
THE PROCESS: We started by asking coaches to nominate their own players and provide all the relevant statistics. Some provided more information — more stats, more context, more details — than others, and that probably impacted the final product. Once the nominees were compiled, there was a lot of spreadsheet sorting and number-crunching, ultimately resulting in the inaugural All-Lowco Volleyball Team presented by Patrick Mason and Southern Lifestyle Properties. After considering several configurations, we settled on selecting one Player of the Year, a seven-player first team, a seven-player second team, and 15 honorable mention selections, for a total of 30 honorees. In an effort to include as many deserving players as possible while still retaining enough exclusivity to maintain prestige, the first and second team each include two middles, two outside hitters, one setter, one libero, and one “flex” player. Every team that submitted a nomination had at least one player represented in the honorable mention list.
THE CAVEAT: You will, almost certainly, have opinions about this list. More than likely, you will think someone who is not on it should be on it. And you might be right. But remember that in order to add someone, you must remove someone, and that someone cannot be their school’s only representative. When you keep that in mind, it will give you the proper perspective on how difficult these decisions really are. We do our best to select the most deserving players, but sometimes it feels like splitting hairs.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Carol Meegan, BA
30-3 overall, SCISA 1A state champions
At first glance, Carol Meegan might not have seemed like the natural fit to lead a gaggle of teenage girls in 2019. But she turned out to be the perfect pilot for Beaufort Academy’s remarkable season.
The season began on a somber note with the tragic death of rising junior Anna Grace Dennis just a couple weeks before school started, and Meegan leaned on her more than four decades of coaching experience to help the Eagles navigate their grief and use it to galvanize them as a team.
“Carol has been around for a long time and had tragedies happen before in her career and her life,” BA athletics director Nick Field said. “I thought somebody with that kind of life experience was really good to have in a moment like that. Tough times, we say they build character, but it can easily go the other way. Everything can fall apart. Our girls stayed together and stayed positive.”
They poured their energy into volleyball, practicing at a high level thanks to coaching tips Meegan picked up coaching at Rutgers University and Coker College, among other schools, and a group of motivated seniors.
Coaching a senior-laden squad can be challenging, Field said, because seniors are often pulled in several directions by family obligations and college preparation, but Meegan handled it masterfully, culminating in the Eagles’ second SCISA 1A title in three years.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ady O’Grady, HHCA | 5-11, Soph., MH
At 5-11, O’Grady isn’t a menacing presence in the middle, but she is a dominant force at the net. Just a sophomore, O’Grady capably stepped into a leadership role following star Sydney DeSimone’s graduation, leading the Eagles back to the SCISA 2A state championship game for the second consecutive year. O’Grady led the way with a Lowco-best 463 kills and a stellar .346 hitting percentage, as well as 63 blocks and 57 aces.
ALL-LOWCO FIRST TEAM
Veronique Magnan, HHIHS | 6-0, Sr., MH
Class 4A All-State selection and Region 7-4A Player of the Year racked up 225 kills, 138 digs, 54 blocks, and a 2.03 serve receive rating for the Seahawks
Dazanni Hinton, BCHS | 6-2, Sr., MH
Hinton was a problem for opponents, compiling 265 kills, 38 blocks, and 73 aces in 71 sets for the Dolphins
Kenzie Ryan, HHIHS | 5-8, Soph., OH
One of two young Seahawks on the first team, Ryan had a sensational sophomore season with 333 kills, 233 digs, 40 aces, and 21 blocks
Lauryn Qualls, HHCA | 5-8, Sr., OH
A perfect complement to Player of the Year O’Grady, Qualls racked up 289 kills, 377 digs, and 109 aces for the state runner-up Eagles.
Emily Ann Hiers, BA | 5-7, Sr., S/OH
Region Player of the Year honors compiled 420 assists, 154 kills, 85 aces, and 74 digs and was instrumental in the Eagles’ run to the SCISA 1A state championship.
MaKenna Mason, HHIHS | 5-11, Fr., S
After eclipsing 1,000 assists as a freshman, the sky is the limit for the Seahawks’ sensational freshman setter.
Haylee Hopman, HHP | 5-5, Soph., L
Earned team captain role and set the school record with 535 digs … as a sophomore.
ALL-LOWCO SECOND TEAM
McCayla Willingham, BA | 5-10, Sr., MH
Centerpiece of the front row for state champion Eagles with 252 kills and 53 blocks.
Madison Denny, HHP | 6-1, Jr., MH
Made a major impact in the middle for the Dolphins with 257 kills, 87 blocks, and 72 aces
Hannah Merchant, BHS | 6-0, Jr., OH
Eagles’ go-to attacker racked up 311 kills and a team-high 239 digs and served 94% with 30 aces
Addison Black, MRHS | 5-9, Jr., OH
Finished with 206 kills, 100 digs, and 187 good serve-receives while serving 96% with 62 aces for the region champ Sharks
Chase Vaigneur, BA | 5-8, Jr., OH/S
Do-it-all player for the SCISA 1A champion Eagles with 283 kills, 298 assists, 208 digs, 77 aces, and 16 blocks
Brielle McCarthy, HHCA | 5-7, Sr., S
Homecoming Queen and hoops star racked up 1,678 assists in her senior campaign
Lexi Birtcher, MRHS | 5-6, Sr., L
Defensive anchor for region champs had 205 digs, 277 good serve-receives, and 48 aces
Annie Braun, HHP | 5-8, Soph., OH
Reaghan Evans, MRHS | 5-10, Fr., S/OH
Madison Gallion, BHS | 5-7, Sr., S
Jasmine Hamilton, JPII | 5-5, Sr., OH
Mary Ann Hiers, BA | 5-5, Soph., L
Amelia Huebel, BA | 5-10, Sr., MH
Lillian Long, MRHS | 5-10, Soph.. MH
Marissa Majorkiewicz, BLHS | 5-7, Soph., MH/OH
Laiani McCullough, BCHS | 5-7, Jr., DS/OH
Faith Paxton, BLHS | 5-3, Fr., L
Erin Rivers, WB | 6-0, Soph., MH/OH
Kayla Rowell, RHHS | Jr., OH
Lydia Schubert, HHIHS | 6-4, Sr., MH
Gracie Wade, THA | Soph., OH
Ashley Wilmot, HHP | 5-8, Soph., OH