By Chris Parker
Hollister volleyball has a new head coach in Hasin Leonard taking over coming off a 15-15-2 season. Leonard was an assistant in the program last year.
“I was encouraged by peers to step into the role of head coach. I come by positions of leadership naturally and really enjoy that role,” Leonard said. “After a year with the girls, I knew that I wanted to be able to influence them and help them become prepared and successful young adults. I knew that volleyball was the avenue God was giving me to be able to make an impression on these young ladies, so I could not pass that up.”
Hollister’s 15 wins last season was the most for the program since 2015. Leonard hopes increased confidence can help Hollister go to new heights.
“Confidence is something that as a team we really struggled with last year. We had a great season, but I am excited to see how working on individual confidence will step up the girls’ game,” Leonard said. “Volleyball is such a team sport that if they cannot have confidence in themselves and each other then we will not go far. We come back without two strong leaders on the floor this year so I am really counting on Aubrey Henson to step up as setter and control the floor. Kyla (McClintic) and Alivia (Hackman) will be crucial to leadership on the court and keeping the energy high.”
Kyla McClintic returns to her spot at outside hitter as the team’s top offensive threat after putting down a team-high 100 kills last year.
“Kyla is a strong hitter. She can see the floor well and has great accuracy,” Leonard said. “I am really looking for Kyla to step up and control the tempo of the game. She will need to be able to keep her teammates positive and upbeat no matter what the score is. Especially with longer games, when they get tired it will be up to a strong leader to keep them focused and motivated.”
Alivia Hackman returns at middle hitter for her senior season. She had 70 kills last season.
“Alivia Hackman is a returning senior who has really stepped up this off-season. I am really excited to watch her command control from the middle,” Leonard said. “I feel like she didn’t really get to show her true self last year for whatever reason and this year she feels comfortable to step up. Alivia has a strong swing and we will look to her to score a lot.”
Aubrey Henson will have a key role in the offense as she takes over at setter for her senior year.
“She will be a senior and will take over being the starting setter. Aubrey is very coachable and has great hands so I am excited to watch her grow and work hard,” Leonard said.
Junior Emily Young will likely take over at libero. Svea Pierson will be an impact senior after she transferred in from Branson in the off-season. Sam Grogan will be a key hitter in her junior year.
Leonard has stepped up conditioning for her girls in preparation for the switch from a best-of-three to best-of-five set format for matches.
“We are going to train to get the job done in three, but we have conditioned and are ready for five. I think that it is going to be tough on the players physically and mentally. They are going to have to learn to play aggressively even when they are down physically. So we will be able to see who works hard outside of practice that is for sure,” Leonard said.
Leonard will push an atmosphere of family as head coach at Hollister.
“I am excited to step up as head coach this year and watch these girls grow. It was been really fun to see them all break out of their shells and become friends first in the off-season. My experience as a player was that when my team was a family, we pushed ourselves and each other so much harder. My hope is that I can influence these girls the way that my coaches did me and give them a season they will never forget,” Leonard said.
Hollister opens the season on Sept. 3 at home against Spokane.
“Our goal as a team this year is to play like a family. I want the girls to enjoy their time on the court together and play as a unit. When they are having fun, playing as one body of players, and encouraging one another, I believe we will be successful,” Leonard said. “I have told them many times already that hustle, hard work, and good attitudes are what will win in the five sets. It is not all about raw talent, it comes down to who can push themselves through being tired and who is mentally tough.”