By Blake Ells
Mandy Burgess returned to Vestavia Hills for her second stint as the head coach of the girls volleyball team last year.
She led the team from 1999 to 2012 before hanging up her whistle to focus on her family. When the position opened back up in 2016, she couldn’t fight off the itch to return.
“The opportunity came back up and I was approached,” she said. “There were a lot of family talks. Coaching is in you. Coaching is one of those professions and one of those careers that you have a passion for it and a love for it. And when you’re away from it, you miss it.”
During her first stint as head coach, she led the Rebels to a state championship appearance, five final fours, eight area championships and a regional championship in 2003. The year that she “retired,” she was awarded Alabama Coach of the Year by the Alabama Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
She’s now tasked with reimplementing her style of play from scratch.
“It’s still taking time,” she said. “But the sky is the limit for this team. They have a great work ethic and they believe in each other. We have to take everything one day at a time and keep chipping away. We can’t look too far ahead and we have to focus on what’s right in front of us.”
Senior Anna Langley and juniors Mary Quinn Carter and Hannah Vines are returning starters who lead this year’s team, a group that has its sights set on ambitious goals that Burgess believes to be attainable. It’s a young group that is filling the shoes of eight seniors who led the Rebels to the super regional last season.
They’ve spent much of the young season traveling to tournaments outside of the area. That included a trip to Siegel High School in Tennessee for the B2B tournament, in which the girls finished 3-2. Among the competition at that tournament were teams from Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee.
“There (were) a couple of Alabama teams,” she said. “But we’re going there so we don’t see the same competition. Our competition here is very good. It’s nice to see some different teams and come into our own. It’s nice to get away from what’s familiar and it helps us grow as a team.”
They began area play with a win over Tuscaloosa County on Sept. 14. They’ll continue diving deeper into area competition as September rolls into October, and they’ll compete in the Over the Mountain Invitational on Sept. 29-30.
“These girls are very unique,” she said. “And they make coming to work fun. It’s the kids that bring you back every time, and if you never leave, it’s the kids that keep you in it.” ❖