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November 26, 2012

H.S. VOLLEYBALL: Despite ankle injuries, NA’s Lilly wins Area POY for second straight season

Bulldog senior back on all-HHC, All-State teams

NEW ALBANY — It is not easy to repeat as an award winner in any sport or competition.

Just ask Catlin Lilly.

At one point during the 2012 high school volleyball season, the New Albany senior outside hitter was dealing with an ankle sprain on both her legs simultaneously. On top of that, one of the ailments was a painful high ankle sprain.

But the ankle injuries did not stop Lilly from persevering and earning the News and Tribune Area Player of the Year for the second year in a row in 2012.

“It’s a great honor for me,” said Lilly, who led the Bulldogs in kills this season. “I’ve worked real hard and I had some great coaches who have helped me throughout my career.”

Being named Area Player of the Year for the second straight time was one of several accomplishments Lilly repeated in 2012. She made both the all-Hoosier Hills Conference team and the Indiana Coaches of Girls’ Sports Association All-State first team for the second consecutive time and earned a return trip to the ICGSA All-Star matches that took place on Nov. 18.

“I think she’s a well-deserved player to earn the award,” New Albany coach John Breeding said about Lilly winning Area Player of the Year honors for the second time. “It’s a wonderful accolade for her.”

Lilly was stunned that she received the award again, while battling against a field of worthy candidates that included Silver Creek senior Haley Garr and the Providence sophomore pair of Taylor Wilson and Patricia Mattingly.

“It was a great honor to get my junior year, but I was kind of shocked to get it as a senior since I missed most of the season,” Lilly said. “I’m thankful that people noticed that I’m a good player.”

Lilly suffered her first ankle sprain on Sept. 13 in a five-set home loss to Hoosier Hills Conference rival Columbus East. Then two weeks later in a four-set home win over Madison, Lilly’s high ankle sprain occurred.

During the time she was injured, Lilly missed six matches, which included three HHC Tournament matches and the showdown with Class 2A state runner-up Providence.

Lilly gave a gutsy performance while recovering from her injuries during the first round of the Class 4A Seymour Sectional against the host Owls on Oct. 18.

Despite being only 80 percent healthy, Lilly spiked 19 kills as the Bulldogs lost to eventual sectional champion Seymour in four sets.

“It was really challenging,” Lilly said about facing the ailments. “Starting my freshman year, I didn’t miss one game [until the 2012 season]. It was hard to sit and watch and not be with my team.”

But Lilly was not just watching matches on the bench while she was hurt. She kept being a vocal leader and encouraging her teammates during every set.

“I felt like I still needed to lead my team and try to cheer my team on,” Lilly said.

Lilly’s leadership made a lasting impression on Breeding.

“That’s what impressed me so much,” Breeding said. “She became a coach on the bench. She was motivating our other players.”

Recently, Lilly signed a national letter of intent to play NCAA Division I volleyball at the University of Memphis next year. The Tigers will start playing in the Big East Conference in the 2013 season.

Lilly said she had a good feeling about Memphis when she visited the school.

“I visited various schools, but it just felt good when I went there,” she said. “I love the team and the coaches. It just felt like home.”

Breeding thinks his standout player made the right college choice.

“I think it’s an excellent fit,” he said. “I think she has the capability to get a starting position and she will help them from the get-go.”

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