So many times in the world of sports the highlight reel is full of the top offensive plays, but there are other athletes who specialize in defense.
Those players work hard at making sure the opposing team’s offense isn’t successful, and many times they go unnoticed by people outside of their teammates.
Lexington graduate Brooklyn Hays is one of those defensive specialists. Hays was a two-sport athlete for the Lady Tigers this past season in volleyball and softball.
Her success of shutting other teams down offensively has earned her the honor of The Jackson Sun’s 2015 Female Athlete of the Year.
“I have had great coaches and great teammates,” Hays said. “I have learned so much from my four years playing at Lexington that will help me in college and life. They have all influenced me in positive ways.”
On the volleyball court, Hays played libero and finished with season with 427 digs to be named to the All-West Tennessee Volleyball First Team.
In softball, Hays played third base, and any ball hit to the left side of the infield was usually going to be fielded and thrown to first base for an out. Offensively, Hays batted .376 with 36 RBI, 51 runs and 16 doubles. She was named to the All-West Tennessee Softball Second Team.
“Defense has always come naturally,” Hays said. “It has always been what I did best. I worked on the defensive side of the game as much as I did the offensive side.”
Through her high school career, Hays developed a signature move that Lexington fans came to expect from her. She was famous for fielding a ground ball at third base and quickly throwing the ball to first base on her knees.
“When we got in the postseason, I was willing to do anything to stop the ball and try to get the out,” she said. “I wasn’t going to let a ball past me. The throw from my knees just came along through the years.”
As a libero in volleyball, Hays was the leader of the backline and tried to make sure those players got a good first pass up to the setter to begin the offense.
“My job in volleyball was to be a leader and call the first ball, be loud and help my team,” Hays said. “I couldn’t let the ball hit the ground.”
Hays was part of a Lexington softball program that has made the Class AA state tournament all four years of her career with a state championship (2013) and state runner-up (2015) honor along the way.
“We lost the first game both years that we made the championship, and we proved that we worked really hard,” she said. “We were successful in one of those championship games. But we were lucky to get to be in the championship twice in four years.”
Michael Odom, 425-9754
Finalists for Athlete of the Year
Molly Hall (USJ) – Hall was a two-sport athlete for the Lady Bruins in basketball and volleyball.
On the volleyball court, Hall was a tough block for teams to try and hit around. She finished the season with 219 kills, 124 digs and 83 blocks. Hall was named to the All-West Tennessee Volleyball First Team.
Hall also played post for the basketball team, giving USJ a strong presence underneath the basket. Her strength in basketball was a ability to rebound.
Bree Linton (Riverside) – Linton was a two-sport athlete for the Lady Panthers in basketball and softball.
In basketball, Linton helped lead Riverside to the Class A state tournament. She averaged 14.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.2 steals to be named to the All-West Tennessee Girls’ Basketball Third Team. She has signed to play college basketball at Freed-Hardeman.
In softball, she played third base and batted .402 with 30 RBI to be named to the All-West Tennessee Softball Second Team.
Lydia Hayes (Huntingdon) – Hayes was a two-sport for the Fillies in cross country and softball.
She finished ninth at the Class A-AA state meet with a time of 20:19.25, and she has signed to run cross country in college at UT Martin.
On the softball field, she played centerfield and was one of the stronger bats for Huntingdon. She batted .404 with 14 doubles and 30 RBI to be named to the All-West Tennessee Softball Second Team.
Alexus Taylor (Westview) – Taylor was a two-sport athlete for the Lady Chargers in soccer and basketball.
She helped lead Westview back to the Class AA state tournament with her ball-handling abilities.
Taylor also played as a forward on the soccer team, helping the Lady Chargers reach the Region 7 A-AA semifinals before being eliminated by Chester County.