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Falcons volleyball star Hatley fulfills long-held goal, signs with ETSU

By JIMMY MOORE, TriCitiesSports.com • Nov 10, 2017 at 12:41 AM

CHURCH HILL — Volunteer senior Alyssa Hatley was just a youngster when Stacy Hatley Cleek, her aunt, played volleyball at Sullivan South, earning conference player of the year honors before going on to a Division I career at East Tennessee State.

Hatley followed in her aunt’s footsteps and this past season garnered Big 6 Conference player of the year recognition after helping lead the Lady Falcons to their first TSSAA sectional appearance in 17 years.

She committed to ETSU after her sophomore year and on Thursday, with family, teammates and other Volunteer students looking on, Hatley made it official when she signed on the dotted line.

“I was talking to my aunt one day and she told me about playing in college and I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” said Hatley, who registered 40 kills against Morristown West in the regional tournament. “I just wanted to follow in her footsteps and do what she did.

“When I came to Volunteer, I had people tell me if I went to a school like Dobyns-Bennett, since it was a bigger school, I’d have a better chance to get looked at. But I wanted to do it on my own and do it because of my skills.”

Hatley qualified twice to go to the USA Training team in Colorado and Michigan for a High-Performance Camp during the summer but decided against a third attempt.

“I am very content with my choice with ETSU because it just feels like home up there,” she added. “It’s just an exciting time.”

Lady Falcons volleyball coach Josh Wenger said Hatley’s stats speak for themselves, but he was most pleased by the intangibles.

“Not only did she grow as a player on the court, but in practices she would share her insight with other players,” he said. “She was always helping in practices, and that’s what you would hope for from any great player. Players started turning to her, especially when things would get crazy. I want everybody to know how she has grown as a player this year, but the intangibles are what a coach wants a player to have. She’s a competitor and the type of player if she makes a mistake wants the ball back to make it right.”

Hatley’s mother, Lisa Jarnagin, said Thursday was the culmination of a dream that started when Alyssa was in first grade.

“She was really excited to get the offer from ETSU,” Jarnigan said. “She has worked with Coach Wenger this year and really come a long way to get ready to start the 2018 season at ETSU.

“She loves it here at Volunteer and is a Lady Falcon at heart and wanted to see Volunteer get better as a team. Now she is excited to go to work for Coach (Lindsey) Devine and start a whole new chapter and see where it takes her.”