GOOD HOPE, Ala. — The Good Hope Lady Raiders are coming off an outstanding 2021 volleyball season, making it to the state tournament for the first time since 2009 and senior Maddie McKenney feels blessed to have been a part of that postseason run. Maddie learned a lot from the experience and plans to build on that as her senior season at Good Hope approaches.
“Going to state was like a dream come true. Coach Holder kept telling us that we could make it to state, but we never believed that it was possible. We made goals that were more attainable to reach, like winning area. We knew the path was going to be difficult, but we were determined to win. When the area game came up, we were very prepared, and our team never let a ball hit the floor. We all played to our best ability and won. When we clinched a spot at regionals, it was so exciting, and it almost didn’t seem real. When we made it to regionals, I can remember stepping on the court and we were all very nervous, but our school was there cheering us on,” McKenney said.
“As we continued throughout regionals, we realized that we were a good team, and we could compete well against those teams. When we clinched a spot at state, we were so excited. We became instantly determined to play to the best of our ability and try to win state. We played the #1 team in 4A. They were a tough team to beat, but to me, I felt accomplished that we pushed that far.”
Maddie learned so much during last season’s run and is preparing to be one of the leaders on the team this year.
“Throughout the season, I had to play a different position than was expected. I have been a setter all my life, but my team needed me to be a defensive specialist. It was uncomfortable at first, but I quickly learned that I had to preserve and play that position to be an asset to the team. Making it to state really opened my eyes to the possibility that this year, we can win state. I want to be a leader on this team to push us to do all we can to win.”
“It is very important to be a positive leader because I once was the younger player. I always looked up to the older girls and their actions really control the energy of the game. I have learned that as a leader, when I don’t like the way I’m playing, I get really quiet and stop encouraging. That brings the morale of the team down and as a leader, I can’t do that. I have taught the younger girls to not give up on themselves and have confidence that they are going to make a good play.”
Maddie has played for Head Coach Natasha Holder for several years and she’s done what she can to learn as much as she can from her on the court.
“Coach Holder is very hard on us because she wants us to be the best we can be. She truly believes that we can be the next state champs. She is a great Christian role model. This past summer, at each workout, she read a devotion and we never leave the gym without praying. I have learned from her to believe in myself, and that volleyball is important, but God should come first.”
Maddie has learned so much from the upperclassmen before her and feels blessed to be playing with a great group of girls.
“The upperclassmen have taught me to savor every moment because, before we know it, it will be over. I’ve learned its very bittersweet being a senior because a special chapter of my life is ending, but there is a lot in store for me in the future,” she said. “We are so special to watch because we always look like we’re having fun. We’re cheering each other on and diving for balls that seem impossible to get. We have strong hitters that slam the ball down and getting to celebrate their success is the best part.”
“Our team has great chemistry, and we work together very well because we have played together since middle school. My team has taught me to keep my head up and they encourage me when I feel discouraged. They have taught me to be a better person on the court, but more importantly, off the court.”
Maddie and her teammates have set some big goals for the upcoming season.
“My goal is to do my part as the setter. I want to lead the team and push them to play to their fullest potential,” she said. “The team goals are to be the next two-time county champions, two-time area champions, play every game to our greatest ability, and to win state.”
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