Lillie Payne gave several sports a try when she was growing up.
She tried soccer and T-Ball, she said, and also basketball.
“I tried out for basketball and I didn’t like it,” said Payne, now a senior at Grayson County High School.
So she gave volleyball a try in the sixth grade, and it’s been a sport she has embraced ever since.
Payne, 17, said one of the best parts of volleyball is teamwork and seeing momentum on the court carry over to success.
“I like the momentum,” she said at practice Tuesday. “I like when we start building momentum and everything just flows. That’s just really fun.”
Payne has been a vital part of the Lady Cougar program the last two years, leading the team in total blocks and solo blocks each season. She had 42 blocks, including 33 solo stops last year and 65 blocks and 48 solos as a sophomore.
“She just continues getting better and better every day,” GCHS head coach Kelli Harris said. “She does an excellent job of just moving from one play to the next.
“Even with Lillie’s attacking and blocking abilities, she does an outstanding job of keeping the girls and us coaches loose,” Harris added. “She’s the comic relief for the team, but she’s able to focus to get us points in a variety of ways.”
Last season, she also led the Lady Cougars with 200 kills and 50 service aces.
Harris calls the 6-foot Payne, a “powerful hitter and tough defender” as a middle blocker.
Payne says a few areas she has improved the most in over her high school career are attacking, hitting and being able to follow the ball during play.
“I’m more confident on the court,” said Payne, who also saw action in six matches as a freshman.
Her improvement, in part, is from playing travel volleyball with Elizabethtown Volleyball Academy during the offseason and gaining more experience, she said.
Payne, one of three seniors on the Lady Cougars, said this year’s team has “a lot of potential.”
“I think that we can accomplish a lot this year,” she said. “It’s looking more hopeful.”
Grayson County is coming off a 12-26 season that ended with an opening-round loss in the 3rd Region Tournament to Ohio County after reaching the 12th District Tournament final. Six of last year’s losses were due to COVID-19 cancellations.
She said she puts more emphasis on team results over personal accolades.
“I would definitely rather the team win than me have a good game,” Payne said. “I’d rather the team come out with a win and me have a bad game.”
Now that her prep career is nearing an end, she said she has put more emphasis this year on preparing for the season.
“I think I definitely thought about this season more, like mentally prepared for it more,” she said, “and I played club and I definitely thought things through a lot more because it is my last season.”
Payne said she isn’t sure if college volleyball is in her future, but “it’s definitely an option.”
Grayson County opens the regular season Aug. 15 at Hart County.