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Photo by Frank Couch.
The Bucs will miss their top setter, Jamie Gregg, who suffered a knee injury in June.
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The Bucs received some unfortunate news in early June.
Rising junior Jamie Gregg, a first-team All-State softball player and tremendous setter for the volleyball team, tore her ACL toward the end of the spring softball season. The injury will almost surely sideline her for the fall volleyball season.
“It’s going to hurt,” said Hoover volleyball coach Chris Camper. “She’s a once-in-a-lifetime player and one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen.”
Camper said he believes he has talented setters waiting in the wings to replace Gregg, but her nerves of steel can’t be reproduced right off the bat.
“The thing about Jamie is she plays all these sports at such a high level, she’s never nervous,” he said. “She’s cold blooded, and we have to get used to not having that.”
Primed to replace Gregg are Spencer Downs and Grace Harris, and Camper said he likes the depth the Bucs have at the position.
Talent still abounds for a Hoover squad that has advanced to the state tournament each of the past three years. Camper has no reservations about praising his libero, Olivia Portera.
“We are returning what I think is the best libero in Alabama,” he said. “She is without a doubt the leader of the team, and she has been for a while. I believe there’s never a better position to have your leader be in.”
The libero is most often a team’s top defender, and touches the ball on the majority of rallies in a given match. Keeping the ball away from the other team’s libero is a crucial part of every game plan.
Portera will be counted on to get the ball to Hoover’s primary outside hitters, Nora Webster and Paige Shaw. Webster has started for the past two years and returns in the same spot for her senior season.
Webster had “the best night of her life” in Hoover’s first-round loss to McGill-Toolen in the 2015 state tournament. “I expect her to have a season like that [this year],” Camper said.
Camper considers Shaw the next big thing, as the junior continues to mature and improve on the outside.
Hoover does not have the same depth at the varsity level as in years past, but the top-level talent is good enough to make another state tournament push. In the two years since Class 7A was formed, the Bucs have reached the finals and taken a fifth-place finish in the tournament.
“We’ll go as far as Olivia passes, and if we can pass well and get those two girls the ball … we’ll be fine,” Camper said.
When the ball is rolled out in late August, the Bucs likely won’t be the best team in the state. But the ceiling is high, and as the weeks and months go by, Hoover may once again be a player at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
“This team has so much potential to be better. There’s so much room to grow,” Camper said.
The Bucs open their season Aug. 25 at Mountain Brook in a tri-match with the Spartans and McGill-Toolen.