As a junior, Olivia Nealy has shown herself to be one of the best outside hitters in the state.

She ranks seventh overall in kills for Class A-Private and leads her Athens Academy squad with 249 kills. Her performances put her second in the region in both hitting percentage and digs. Nealy’s success has helped her team to what could be a historic season.

Nealy credits her work in the offseason for preparing her. She started strength and conditioning three days a week. That, along with club volleyball, has prepared her for a leadership role on the team.

“I can definitely see that her confidence is up,” said head coach Jane Thomas. “This is her third year on varsity, too, so I think she’s showing a lot more consistency, a lot more confidence, and she’s OK being that person that we gotta get the ball to more. She wants that, so that’s been great to see from her this year.”

Nealy has seen the improvement within herself.

“I think I’ve gotten better on being smart,” Nealy said. “I don’t make as many hitting errors, I’m better at my serve receive and passing and defense in general.”

She set goals for herself before her senior year has even begun. She hopes to reach 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs. As of Oct. 4, she has 730 kills and 783 digs, putting that goal within reach.

Thomas sees Nealy as a consistent yet aggressive player, putting responsibility on her as Athens Academy looks toward the state playoffs. But even with her individual goals, Nealy stressed the importance of putting her team first.

“I just want to have a really fun and good end to the season,” Nealy said. “Even if it doesn’t end the way we want it, I still want to reach my goal for each game for how many kills I want, but at the same time, I want our team to improve as a whole, too.”

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