Pair of Hilltoppers share Player of the Year honors
Another season of high school volleyball is in the record books for Rutherford County, and once again, the R-S Central Lady Hilltoppers own the Rutherford County Player of the Year ... or in this instance, Co-Players of the Year with seniors Holly Baynard and Tia Bristol.
Bristol, the 2012 Player of the Year, followed her junior season with another campaign full of blocks and kills while Baynard emerged as one of the top setters in the conference.
The duo was voted as team captains at the beginning of the season and proved why their teammates entrusted them time and time again with clutch points, crisp passes and pinpoint serves.
"We had a roller coaster of a season but they did a great job leading the girls," R-S Central head coach Julie Buchanan said of her senior standouts.
Bristol upheld her reputation as a deadly hitter at the net with another All-Conference season.
"Tia was our powerhouse," Buchanan said. "Tia is the one player that teams think twice about when they think about R-S Central volleyball. She's the one they all talk about."
As strong as Bristol was at the net, she remained on the court no matter her placement on the floor and continued to excel.
"She's just an all-around athlete," Buchanan said. "I don't think there's one sport that she can't play. And on the volleyball court there isn't one position she couldn't play."
Now as Bristol closes out her high school volleyball career, she passes the powerhouse torch to younger players Candice Simmons and her sister, Te'Ja Twitty ... two players she helped mentor in 2013.
"Candice and Te'Ja relied on Tia's strength and support to get them through the year," Buchanan said. "They had a little grouping that Tia really led. She's a known leader and people want to follow her."
Many of Bristol's kills were set up by Baynard, the team's floor general.
"Holly was the encouraging force and the glue that kept us together," Buchanan said. "She's the one that makes the decision on who hits so she's a very level-headed and smart player."
Baynard, known for her floor awareness, is equally known for her intensity on the court. This was best illustrated in a dramatic five-set loss to conference champion Kings Mountain.
"Holly played her best game that day. She was all over the floor," Buchanan said. "You could see it in her face that she wanted to win that game. I remember looking at her and asking her if she was okay because she was exhausted. But she stuck in there and kept playing.
"You could see the desire in her eyes that she wanted to beat Kings Mountain. After that game I was a little teary-eyed because I knew how bad she wanted that game and how bad I wanted it for the girls."
Buchanan, Central's second-year head coach, was instantly impressed by Baynard when she joined the Hilltoppers program.
"From Day 1 I stepped in the the gym I told the girls that the most important job on the floor was the hitter and Holly stepped right up," Buchanan said.
From that day, Buchanan offers nothing but praise for her senior setter.
"[Baynard] has a drive and a passion for volleyball. She'll do whatever it takes to win and keep the girls happy," Buchanan said. "She knows just the right to set someone in the back row if we're struggling on the front row and she just has a knack for the position. I really never had to coach her much. She just knows the game."
Bristol, Baynard and the Lady Hilltoppers that had six other seniors ended their season in a first round loss at Bunker Hill on Oct. 19, but they certainly gave R-S Central and the county a team to be proud off.
2013 All Rutherford County Volleyball Team
Holly Baynard, R-S Central (Co-Player of the Year)
Tia Bristol, R-S Central (Co-Player of the Year)
Andrea Keever, R-S Central
Alyssa Edwards, Thomas Jefferson
Cragan Hardin, East Rutherford
Dakota Reid, Chase
Jesse McMahan, R-S Central
Devyn Gowan, Chase