By Rubin E. Grant
Grace Carr doesn’t play volleyball for personal glory. For her, it’s all about the team.
“Whenever I step on the court, I play for the team,” Carr said. “I don’t want to let anybody down.”
Mountain Brook’s senior outside hitter didn’t let her team down for a moment this season. She brought her ‘A’ game to the court game in and game out.
In fact, in her three years as the Spartans’ head coach, Vickie Nichols said, she rarely saw Carr have an off night.
“Over the course of three years, there was only a handful of times she played just OK,” Nichols said. “She always came ready to play.”
Carr didn’t just play this season. She was dominant. She set a school-record for kills in a single season with 713, while recording personal highs in digs (583), blocks (53) and aces (86) as she led Mountain Brook to a school-record 59 victories and the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 7A state championship.
The performance earned Carr the 2019 Over The Mountain Journal Volleyball Player of the Year honor in a vote of Over the Mountain volleyball coaches. She also was the 2018 OTMJ Volleyball Player of the Year.
“She had a tremendous senior year,” Nichols said. “She set a school record for kills and, of course, she was the MVP for the state tournament.”
Carr described her brilliant season as a team thing.
“I was just playing to see what I needed to do to help us win,” she said. “I was playing whatever role the team needed me to play. Not winning (a state title) the past two years, I was just trying to step up big time for the team.
“I am honored to receive all the rewards, but it’s a good reflection on my team. It’s never one player who wins the game. If it wasn’t for my teammates, I wouldn’t be getting these awards. I owe it to my teammates. It just shows the hard work and passion of my teammates.”
More OTMJ Members
Carr is one of four Mountain Brook players on the 2019 All-OTMJ team. Twins Ann, a setter, and Liz, a libero, Vandevelde and Greer Golden, a middle blocker, also were voted to the team.
Spain Park landed three players on the team – outside hitters Audrey Rothman and Paris Morris and libero Lexie Fowler.
Hoover had two players voted to the team, outside hitter Rya McKinnon and middle blocker Gabrielle Essix.
Vestavia Hills setter Ainsley Schultz, Homewood middle hitter Olivia Brown and Oak Mountain middle hitter Zoe Atkinson round out the team.
Nichols was voted Coach of the Year after guiding the Spartans to their first title since they won three consecutive crowns from 2014-2016.
Of course, having Carr around was a major plus for Nichols, who just completed her third season as the Spartans’ head coach. She enjoyed watching Carr develop into a dominant player the past three seasons.
“She was a good player two years ago (as a sophomore), but this year she had fewer unforced errors, she was seeing the court better and she was swinging smart,” Nichols said. “She really matured and was consistent throughout the season. She developed into an all-around, steady player.”
Carr was a freshman on Mountain Brook’s 2016 championship team. She said her maturity came with experience.
“I think with time I had playing I was able to learn and grow from my mistakes and see what weaknesses I had,” Carr said. “That made me try to get better, to see what worked best on the court and see how to help the other girls.”
She finished her career with 1,845 kills, 1,399 digs and 165 blocks.
An End and a Beginning
Carr remains unsure about playing volleyball in college. She is an excellent student, carrying a 4.47 GPA and scoring 34 on the ACT.
Nichols believes Carr would be a good player at the next level.
“I don’t understand why she’s not going to play in college,” Nichols said. “She’s planning on majoring in engineering and she’s not sure if she can do both. Who knows, she might change her mind.”
If Carr’s volleyball career is over, what she’s going to miss most is her teammates.
“I miss volleyball a lot already,” she said. “I miss the girls. You go from seeing them two or so hours a day to not seeing them much at all. I love my teammates.”
Nichols will certainly miss Carr next season.
“I am going to miss her leadership as a player,” Nichols said. “She wasn’t always talking a lot, but she was a good presence on the court. Her guidance came through the way she played. She loved volleyball and she loved to win and that spilled over on the other players.”