Parkview Baptist’s Emily Hart won’t be mistaken for a football lineman. The 5-foot-4 Hart is a volleyball setter who has played a key role in the Eagles’ 7-2 start.
Like a football lineman, a setter often gets limited attention. That’s fine with Hart, especially when PBS is winning.
“Most people look at the hitters who make the plays at the net and score most of the points,” PBS coach Becky Madden said. “The only time a setter gets noticed is if she’s very good or very bad.
“If you’re winning and things are going smoothly, the setter is doing her job. Emily is doing her job well.”
By definition, a setter is the player who takes the pass from a teammate and sets the ball near or around the net so that a hitter can slam it across the net at the other team.
The role is similar to that of a football lineman who throws the block that springs a running back for a long touchdown run. Or that of a point guard in basketball who makes a pass that leads to an easy basket.
Hart relishes her role and also helps symbolize what this year’s Parkview team is all about. She is a first-year starter for a Parkview program that was supposed to
be rebuilding after graduating all but two starters, including 6-1 star hitter Fayette Adelaja, who now plays for Purdue,
Hart and her PBS teammates got a lesson in perception at a summer team camp when players from another school asked if they were Parkview’s JV team.
“We told them no, we’re the varsity team ... We’re just a small team,” Hart said.
“We’ve worked hard to
show we are a good team, even though we’re not very tall.
“Because we don’t have the height, there are things we approach differently. I hate the term ‘scrappy team.’ But we do work and do whatever we need to do to be successful.”
Parkview has just one player who stands 5-10 or better. One of the Eagles other key outside hitters is Hart’s twin, Alissa, who is currently sidelined with a hip flexor injury.
Hart notes she is just a little taller than her twin.
“I take great pride in being taller. As twins, we’re very competitive,” Hart said. “She (Alissa) gets good height when she jumps at the net. She’s always been my go-to person.”
Madden quickly found out Hart was not focused on using her sister. She assumed a leadership role as Parkview Baptist advanced to the semifinals at last weekend’s 37th Episcopal Invitational. In the process, Hart earned the first all-tournament team honors of her high school career.
“Last year, she did well on the JV level and played some on varsity and did not set,” Madden said of Hart. “So I really didn’t know for sure how she would do. But I knew she was mentally tough, athletic and had a good head for the game.
“Over the summer, Emily was dedicated and started putting everything together for us. She’s a fantastic leader and a great teammate, but she’s also very competitive and wants to win.”
Hart started playing volleyball as an elementary school student at Baton Rouge Lutheran and then transferred to PBS as an eighth-grader. Shortly thereafter she learned to be setter and began playing club volleyball.
“The hardest part when you’re starting out is the footwork,” Hart said.
“I had a club coach who worked with me on that when I was sophomore. Once I got the footwork part down, it (setting) clicked.”
Hart’s ability to make adjustments on the court has been just as impressive as her footwork, Madden said.
“Emily is very intuitive about what’s going on with the other team, and her decision-making skills are incredible,” Madden said. “She knows when to dump the ball over the net when our hitters aren’t quite ready for it, and she also knows where to place the ball for them.
“That’s not easy. When we had Fayette we could set the ball in a certain area and know she could go up and get it. Now we have to be more precise.
As she watched other teams play last weekend at Episcopal, Hart said she picked up a few new wrinkles from other setters she is eager to try. Of course, those plays would have to fit into the Eagles’ game plan.
“Setters don’t get the glory,” Madden said. “They make everybody else look good. She (Hart) does that.”