There have been times this season when Sacred Heart Academy volleyball coach Brett Versen has felt like just another fan in the stands while on the sideline.
Such is life, though, when you have Paige Hammons on your team.
“There’s some plays where you’re sitting on the bench and you watch her and you’re just kind of like, ‘Wow!’” Versen said. “You have to sit back and go, ‘Not many people can do that,’ let alone a senior in high school. Coaches, every once in a while, we kind of look at each other and smile and (say), ‘What can you do?”
The answer: not much.
The 6-foot-2 senior outside hitter isn’t just one of the top players in the state, she’s one of the best in the nation. So far this season Hammons, who was named to the 2016 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Preseason Girls Volleyball Team, has 323 kills, a .355 hitting percentage, 19 aces, 31 blocks and 144 digs for the Valkyries (21-3), who are No. 1 in the state and No. 14 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25.
Q: How did you get started playing volleyball?
A: My best friend, Paige Sells, who is now our volleyball manager, convinced me in the second grade to try out, and both of our moms coached. I just fell in love with the sport.
Q: What was it about volleyball?
A: I think it was just the competitiveness of the sport, and having a team around you was awesome. My sister and my mom played tennis their whole lives, so I was kind of into tennis and swimming, but those are individual sports. I liked having teammates to motivate me and make me better.
Q: Did you ever play basketball growing up?
A: I played in grade school, but I was on the ‘C’ team. I wasn’t very good.
Q: Did (SHA basketball coach) Donna (Moir) ever try to recruit you?
A: Freshman year she was like, ‘You can for sure play basketball,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t think you want me.’
Q: Where does your height come from? Is your mom tall?
A: Actually, she’s like 5-9, so a little bit, but my dad (Ray) is like 6-4, so that’s where I get my height from.
Q: What do you think about the Sacred Heart-Assumption rivalry?
A: It’s a good rivalry to have. Some of my best friends are on that team, so I love playing against them. I play for (Assumption coach) Ron (Kordes) for club, so playing against him is one of my favorite things to do; beating him is even better. Having those people there, their crowd and our crowd, it’s so much fun to have, (but) during the game, obviously, you just have to tone them out because you can’t focus on that stuff.
Q: You’ve committed to Florida. Why the Gators?
A: It was a hard decision. It’s kind of far away from home, but it’s Florida, so no one is going to be too afraid to come. Mary (Wise), the head coach, is amazing, and then Allie Gregory, who played for Assumption last year, goes there and we’re really close. It’s going to be awesome to have her there, like an older-sister figure, to help me out when I first get there. The coaching staff is amazing and just playing for a school like Florida, I don’t think anything could be better than that.
Q: Over the past two summers you have played on the U.S. Women’s Junior National Training and the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Volleyball teams. What were those experiences like?
A: Both experiences have been amazing. The junior national team was probably my favorite just because I got more playing time, I started and played. The youth national team was more of a learning experience. I had never done USA before that. Playing internationally was just so different. You don’t have enough subs, so you cannot come out. So you have to learn how to pass.
Q: What are your goals for this season?
A: Personally, I would love to win Miss Kentucky Volleyball. That’s always been like a goal of mine, and then Gatorade Player of the Year would be great, but honestly I’m just focused on winning state right now.
PAIGE HAMMONS UP CLOSE
School: Sacred Heart Academy.
Student-athlete: Paige, who has a 3.6 GPA, says her favorite subject is math.
Family: Paige, 17, lives with her mother, Kim, and her sister, Ashley, 19, when she’s home from Denison (Ohio) University, where she plays tennis.
Sacred Heart coach Brett Versen says: She’s a special talent. Players like her, with that athletic ability, that much volleyball IQ and that much drive to just continue to be great and want to get better, they’re special players. She does so much for us. She passes, she plays defense, she’s big at the net, offensively and defensively for us. She goes back and goes on runs for us back at the service line with great serves. … We haven’t seen anywhere near what she’s capable of being and what she’s going to be, so it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to this last run we have here and seeing what she’s going to do in the future.