By Blake Ells
Mountain Brook is the only high school volleyball team in Alabama to win the state championship since Class 7A was created. But, despite its three straight wins, the team heads into the state championship this week as the second seed and a bit of an underdog.
Members of the team have felt doubted this season, and perhaps their doubters had reason. Libby Grace Gann is the only senior on this year’s squad; not only did three seniors depart in 2016, but three more of Gann’s classmates departed, too. She’s joined by just one junior, Ellen Dulin.
“I don’t even think we were ranked number one at the beginning of the season,” said Gann. “We were always in the top ten, but never at the top. We just want to go out there and prove everyone wrong because no one expects us to win. Even though we’ve won three – obviously people will be gunning for us because we won those three – but I don’t think anyone expects us to win again.”
Their success this season came from their focus on the squad as it stands. They didn’t spend time focused on their past accomplishments or the competition that was ahead, but rather making sure that they were paying attention to details.
“Our coach always says to do the ordinary things better than anyone else,” said Gann. “We knew that as long as we did the small things on our side, it would help us get to our fourth state championship.”
Leading a young team was never intimidating for Gann; she’s been on the squad since she was a freshman and she had plenty of guidance from the classes that came before her. Significant contributions to those three state championship teams didn’t hurt her confidence, either.
“I got to watch so many amazing seniors and older leaders,” she said. “So I knew what I needed to do, and Ellen Dulin stepped up a lot. Watching those previous leaders helped me learn what I needed to carry on to this team.”
The Spartans fell to Bob Jones at Super Regionals, which boosted the Patriots to the top seed. That possible championship rematch looms, but Gann isn’t looking ahead.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time,” she said. “As long as we take care of our side, we don’t need to worry about the other side. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we should just go out there and play to the greatest of our abilities and whatever happens, happens.”
After the state tournament, Gann will begin preparing for her career at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. She’s already gotten to know several of her future teammates with the Chargers, and she’ll join them next fall.