Nolensville

Nolensville’s volleyball team suffered through a 1-18 season when the school opened in 2016.

There were only freshmen and sophomores at the school that first season.

“That was a tough first year,” Lady Knights coach Brett Young said. “It’s almost like you’re kind of jumping into varsity play with what in essence was kind of a JV age group.”

Since then, the Lady Knights have enjoyed a meteoric rise.

Nolensville made it to the Class AA Sectional the next two seasons before winning three consecutive state championships.

The latest came Friday when the Lady Knights swept Ravenwood 25-14, 25-19, 25-21 to win the Class AAA championship at Siegel on Friday, the team's first year in the higher classification.

Nolensville hired Young in 2019 when the Lady Knights started their state title run.

“They made a quick turnaround,” Young said. “It wasn’t like I showed up and here comes the savior by any stretch of the imagination. They had it rolling before I got there those two years before, for sure.”

Young’s daughter, Avery, was on his first team and he had coached 14 of the 15 players during his three years at Mill Creek Middle School.

So Young knew what he was getting into and it eased the transition.

“These girls had history with me and we had relationships already built and I thought that played a big part in our success these first three years,” Young said.

The move up to AAA didn’t faze Nolensville (43-4).

“It was a big transition, for sure, to bump up a division and step into triple-A our first year and get the result we got at the end was just really tough to believe in a lot of ways,” Young said.

Nolensville played a lot of Class AAA teams in Williamson County in non-district games the past few seasons, making the move up easier to handle.

“We actually had no seniors on our 2019 roster, so when we won that first one in double-A we returned everybody and sort of were the favorite that second year,” Young said. “We did lose five seniors from the 2020 team and were fortunate enough to still have plenty of good depth and some younger girls that stepped in and took some of those roles.”

Nolensville’s Class AAA champion was known for its blocking prowess.

“Our net play this year was really strong,” Young said. “We just shattered our school record for blocks as a team (475) and that really set the tone for us. We had some dynamic hitters this year.”

Sophomore middle hitter Maggie Allred blocked 164 shots, nearly doubling the old individual school record.

Freshman outside hitter Kaira Knox also broke the old record with 98 as did junior middle hitter Madeline McNeely with 82.

Nolensville added to its state title streak despite moving up to the largest enrollment class.

“There are plenty of good double-A teams, but I think it’s the number of triple-A teams that every night out you’ve got to step up and be ready,” Young said. “Really our entire postseason run when you look at who we had to go through -- in the district tournament, you get Brentwood, the eight-time (defending) state champ and you’re in an elimination game with them in the first round. That’s almost unheard of.”

Nolensville now plays in District 11-AAA, considered by many the top league in the state.

And it played some strong non-district opponents.

Battle Ground Academy (31-2) won its first Division II-A championship and Hume-Fogg (35-7) ended Metro’s 23-year drought with a Class AA title.

Nolensville beat both of them in two sets during the regular season.

“So many good teams in this area, for sure,” Young said.

Williamson County teams are especially tough.

“We’ve got so many of our kids that play club (volleyball),” Young said. “They’re volleyball heavy for nine or 10 months out of the year. When a good player is playing nine months out of the year and another good player is playing three or four, it doesn’t a lot to figure out why that extra work is gonna pay off.”

Most of Nolensville’s players play club volleyball, giving them an edge over many opponents.

Williamson County schools are ranked nationally in academics and they lose less players to private schools than other school systems partially due to that.

The Lady Knights won five out of six matches, including three in the postseason, with Ravenwood.

“We knew what they wanted to try to do; they know what we’re going to try to do,” Young said. “So it just comes down to executing your plan and playing the best you can.”

Ravenwood was definitely the underdog talent-wise to Nolensville.

“Nolensville’s roster is probably one of the best in the state,” Ravenwood coach Abbey West said. “So it’s not even just their blocking, it’s everything. They’ve got more kids on their roster that will probably be playing at the Division I level than any other school in our state.”

Knox was named state tournament MVP.

“Good Lord, Kiara is phenomenal,” Young said of the 5-foot-9 Knox, who plays bigger than she is. “She is such an unbelievable athlete, first of all. She does some things you can’t really teach kids to do.”

Knox’s explosiveness and vertical leap set her apart from most players.

“She’ll play as high as she wants to play,” Young said of her college potential. “I just finished up my 26th year (of coaching) and she’s as talented of a kid as I’ve ever had. And she’s got a good head on her shoulders.”

The left-hander had 372 kills and 107 digs this season.

She said Nolensville felt the pressure after its loss to Cleveland in the state tournament.

“We knew that if we just slipped up one time and lost the game that it could mean that our season was over, but we have a really good group of girls and we all really want to win,” Knox said. “And we all have that fierce competitiveness in us and that really helped us.”

She has a seventh-grade sister, Kamryn, who also has lots of potential. Their mom, Sidnee, played setter at Hampton.

A five-set loss to Cleveland in the opener dropped Nolensville into the loser’s bracket at the state tournament.

The Lady Knights rallied with wins over Maryville, Hardin Valley, Collierville, Cleveland and Ravenwood to earn the championship.

Nolensville survived an 11-set marathon of three matches Thursday.

“It was definitely the hard route, for sure,” Young said. “To play 11 sets on one day and then still have something in the tank for Friday was pretty amazing.”

Two of Nolensville’s players are college commits: libero Maymie Guthrie (North Florida) and Young (Freed-Hardeman).

“(Maymie) was the region MVP,” Brett Young said. “That’s such an important position when you have that player that is sort of in essence your all-time defender and when you know you’re going to have solid play from that spot pretty much night in, night out, it’s a really good feeling.”

Guthrie had 1,309 career digs (second all-time), including 578 this season, and 279 career aces, a school record.

She said Nolensville didn’t get overwhelmed during its 11-set day at the state tournament.

“We were, like, you know what, we might as well just give it our all and not give up because we knew it could be done,” Guthrie said. “We were all talking that Thursday when we had to play those three teams. Why not do this?”

Young’s son plays baseball at Freed-Hardeman and his niece is on the volleyball team.

Avery finished her career with 1,099 kills, second all-time at Nolensville, and 899 digs, third all-time.

“To have the success that we’ve had just in general and to be able to share that with your daughter, it’s kind of hard to put into words,” Young said.

A meeting Young held with the returning players in 2019 left a strong impression on his daughter.

“He just said, ‘Your goal should be to win the state championship’ and I think we all kind of took that to heart and we got it done that first year,” Avery Young said. “And then I think in my second year (with him) he had that same speech. This year he had that same speech, even moving up in (classifications).”

Maggie Rickert, a 6-foot junior outside hitter, is the Lady Knights’ career leader in kills with 1,225. She broke the single-season record with 496 this season.

Junior setters Ellie Tant and Caroline Johnston both had good years.

Tant set the single-season assist record with 863 and Johnston added 470. Johnston has 1,306 career assists, second all-time.

Young went 339-286 from 1998-2011 at Smyrna. He’s 122-17 for an .878 winning percentage at Nolensville.

Ravenwood (27-14) made its deepest postseason run since finishing second in 2013.

“We were predicted to not even get out of districts, so for us to get out of districts and make it to the finals was a huge accomplishment for our girls,” West said. “100% overachievers.”

Tanya Sichling led Ravenwood with 321 kills and Kennedy Riggs had a team-high 938 assists and 458 service aces.

Bella LePore led the Lady Raptors with 639 digs and Ellie Kimpel had the most blocks, 63.