Enterprise Parks and Recreation hosted a youth volleyball league for the first time this year and shocked the state by capturing both the third-fourth grade and fifth-sixth grade division’s state championships.
Enterprise sent three all star teams to the 2020 Alabama Recreation and Park Association (ARPA) State Volleyball Tournament in November, capturing the two state championships.
While those state titles have been a long time in the making, they come just three years after Enterprise Parks and Rec Assistant Director Blake Moore began to install a volleyball league. After the urging of his wife, Enterprise assistant volleyball coach Hannah Moore, Blake Moore reached out to longtime EHS volleyball coach Janie Wiggins about setting up a youth volleyball clinic in 2018.
The rec department held the first clinic at the old Coppinville Junior High’s gym and then returned for another clinic in 2019 at the Jug Brown Gym after Enterprise resident Kevin Rhodes helped drill holes in the basketball courts so that nets could be set up. Moore also said that Rhodes provided the nets for the courts, as well.
After a successful clinic that saw the youth players grow from 30 to more than 60 in the second year, Enterprise Parks and Recreation put together a third-fourth grade all star team and fifth-sixth grade all star team to compete at the 2019 ARPA State Tournament.
The fifth-sixth grade team went 0-2 but earned the sportsmanship award, while the third-fourth grade team actually finished in third place.
In 2020, Enterprise Parks and Rec created its first youth volleyball league and, despite COVID-19, more than 80 girls signed up to play. Blake Moore pointed to his wife, Rhodes and Wiggins as being instrumental in the formation of the league.
Brynn Milliner’s Columbia Blue team won the third-fourth grade division, while Adam Blackstock’s Power Blue team won the fifth-sixth grade division.
As the two league champion coaches they were named as the all-star team coaches, as well. Also, Hannah Moore was a second fifth-sixth grade all star coach because of the high number of players/teams in that division.
Hannah Moore’s team made it to the quarterfinals but both Blackstock’s fifth-sixth grade team and Milliner’s third-fourth grade team earned state championships.
“These are the first ever state championships in volleyball for Enterprise,” Blake Moore said. “We’re very proud of all three teams. I think this was a huge victory for the City of Enterprise and for girls’ sports here in Enterprise.”
Milliner said that after seeing the girls in 2019, he felt like they (might) have a chance in 2020 to make a run at the state title.
“I was very proud of my team. We made a lot of strides from the end of the season through all stars,” she said. “Last year seeing my daughter’s team I knew that this year we were going to have a pretty good chance of bringing home a state championship and I’m just glad we were able to do that.”
Blackstock said that more than half of his all-star team had never played organized volleyball before this year.
“I’m extremely proud of my team,” he said. “More than half of the all-star team had never even played organized volleyball before. So, for them to achieve what they did was extraordinary.”
With the burgeoning Deep South Volleyball Club and the Link Volleyball Academy, both helmed by Wiggins, volleyball has become more and more popular with youth girls in the area, which Milliner and Blackstock said would just continue to help grow success at the tradition rich EHS program.
“Like anything else, the earlier they start the better they are going to be,” Blackstock said. “The younger you can instill the fundamentals of any activity the better. Through parks and rec, the Mini Cats camps, Deep South and the Link Academy there is a lot of elementary level (volleyball) activity going on Enterprise.
“To me, it’s going to be crazy over the next six or seven years at the junior highs and high school. I think the competition to even make the team is going to be insane.”
Moore said that what has impressed him most about the young volleyball players has been their toughness to overcome sometimes difficult situtations.
“There is no air conditioning in that gymnasium and they practiced in 95-degree temperatures sometimes and never once did you hear them complain about it,” Blake Moore said. “Our facilities are in dire need of upgrades but you didn’t hear them about any of that. Their mental toughness was impressive.”