AIKEN --- With one of Aiken's many blowout victories already secured this past volleyball season, coach Malynda Young wanted to pull star outside hitter Kiki Hennessey off the court during the third set.
Though she followed her coach's orders, Hennessey was none too pleased about the decision.
It wasn't about ego or padding her impressive stats, Hennessey thrived off being a leader for a young Hornets team.
"I liked it," Young said. "She loves being on the court, and she deserves it. She's that good."
Her leadership, along with immense talent and competitiveness helped propel Aiken to the South Carolina Class AAAA state quarterfinals for the second time in as many years. With Hennessey, The Augusta Chronicle Volleyball Player of the Year, anchoring the front line, the Hornets had one of their best seasons in school history, finishing 25-3.
"I felt like over the off-season, I had improved a whole lot and that we would be better as a team," Hennessey said. "I knew that if I would lead, everyone would follow. I just wanted them to want it like I wanted it because I wanted state so bad this year."
From her left outside hitter position, Hennessey was Aiken's go-to player offensively. In the final game of the season, a home loss to White Knoll, Hennessey surpassed the 300 kills mark for the season (301). She was also among the team leaders in blocks and digs.
Her performance throughout the season earned her a place on the Class AAAA All-State team, an unanimous selection to the Region 5-AAAA All-Region team and starting spot for the South team in the state's North-South All-Star Game.
"All of these awards are amazing. I knew that I had gotten better but when you're playing you don't realize just how much. It's great to see that hard work has gotten me to where I want to be," Hennessey said.
Hennessey's desire to finish her high school career with a state championship was evident after the last match of the regular season, a three-set win over North Augusta.
The senior stuck around well after everyone had left to work with Young on fine-tuning her skills.
Her work ethic that day was reminiscent of summer workouts when Hennessey would ask to do additional conditioning and weight training.
"She's a very determined girl. She's the kind of athlete that every coach wants," Young said.
Reach Joey Jones at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Hennessey led the Hornets to the Class AAAA state quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. ... Had 301 kills on the season, an average of nearly 11 per match. ... Named to the All-State, All-Region and All-Star team. ... Signed with Lander University
Q: Besides hard work, why have you been successful? A: Great coaching, sharp focus and vocal leadership.
Q: What do you like about being an athlete at Aiken? A: "I can't really imagine being anywhere else. If I went to South Aiken, I'd be mad. I hate that school."
Q: Fifty years from now, what will we all remember about this decade, the 00s?
A: Sept. 11
Q: What song motivates you before competition?
A: One More Time by Daft Punk
Q: What is a Web site you visit every day?
The Augusta Chronicle is profiling its top performers from fall sports this week:
FRIDAY: Georgia football
SATURDAY: Independent football
SUNDAY: South Carolina football