By Lucy McNally / Sports Editor
For many years, Harpeth Hall has stomped through the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) as one of the top volleyball teams in the district and has sent girls to play in college. Recently, Harpeth Hall junior and volleyball player Elizabeth Aylward announced her verbal commitment to play for the Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg, VA, and she is the first athlete of her junior class to commit to a college.
Aylward began her volleyball career in the 5th grade playing for her middle school volleyball team. She quickly advanced to Alliance, a Nashville area club team, by the 6th grade.
From there, she led her teams to victory and raised them up in their losses. In 8th grade, she entered into the world of recruitment and received offers from freshman year up until her commitment during junior year.
“It takes a lot of support and open-mindedness to get through the recruiting process,” Aylward said.
Due to rules in the recruiting system to protect younger athletes, players cannot verbally commit to a college until June 15 of their junior year. Aylward connected immediately with the Virginia Tech campus and its bountiful opportunities when she visited in the summer before junior year.
“I had an amazing experience at VT. The second I stepped on campus, the beauty overwhelmed me,” Alyward said.
“The first thing I did was buy a sweatshirt! I got to meet so many amazing people, and it really felt like home.”
The supportive coaching staff was another component of her decision to commit. Additionally, she had an instant connection with the team.
Coming to the end of her school season, Aylward reflects on both how the Honeybears have impacted her life and how their support led her to the opportunity of commitment to Virginia Tech.
“More than anything I love playing school volleyball. The girls at [Harpeth Hall] have truly changed the way I play and how much I love the sport,” Alyward said.
“I would not be where I am in my volleyball career without this team.”
She values the examples of leadership given to her and the comradery of the team whether they win or lose. Mutually, Aylward’s teammates recognize her success as a player and her impact as a leader.
“I look up to Elizabeth so much as an athlete, friend, and leader of the team. She is going to do great things at Virginia Tech,” junior Aden Barrett said.
Harpeth Hall’s Head Volleyball Coach Hannah Asafo-Adjei also praises Aylward as an exemplary athlete.
“Her athletic ability, all-around skill, and elite competitiveness will help her be successful at the Division 1 level,” Asafo-Adjei said.
“She helps the team be confident and create high expectations and standards, and she is the first one leading by example to work toward meeting those standards.”
Aylward strives to be the best and represents her class and Harpeth Hall as she continues to play volleyball at the college level.
“Volleyball has impacted my life for the longest time,” Alyward said.
“I have met all my best friends through volleyball. I have built amazing relationships with coaches that I would not change for the world. Volleyball is an amazing sport and has brought me the most amazing people to love,” Alyward said.
Volleyball not only has made an athlete out of Aylward but also has helped her form relationships and create lifelong memories that she plans to carry with her throughout her time at Virginia Tech.