Chanelle Hargreaves’ transition to high school volleyball
By Kyle LoJacono
Wharton’s Chanelle Hargreaves plays one of the most stressful positions in team sports — volleyball libero.
The only thing stopping the other team from scoring is Chanelle’s ability to read where the opposition is hitting, moving to the right spot and getting the perfect dig sent forward to start the Wildcats’ offensive attack. If she is just a half a step off, the ball will find home and the competition will be one step closer to victory.
“It’s kind of weird because I like the pressure,” Chanelle said. “I want to know that I have to deliver, and then if I do it’s a big thing. I really like that feeling.”
She’s been more than up to the task this season, recording 191 digs, 4.1 per set, with 28 aces while starting all 16 matches and playing in all 47 sets.
And she is no veteran of high school volleyball — in fact, she’s the farthest thing from it.
Chanelle is a freshman starting on a team that is 16-0 and 4-0 in Class 8A-District 7 play. She has focused on the sport since picking up the game in fourth grade with a community team in North Carolina, first as an outside hitter.
“But then everyone got taller than me,” said the 5-foot-3 Chanelle. “I also tried setter, but when I switched to libero everything just worked.”
Chanelle’s talent jumped out to Wharton coach Eric Barber when she came to his summer camp two years ago.
“As an eighth-grade I was having her run drills with the varsity players,” Barber said. “I knew I had a special player coming in, and she came in and hasn’t missed a beat.”
Chanelle said she had no idea she’d be starting from Day 1.
“When coach told me, I freaked out a little bit,” Chanelle said. “It was right before the first match, and he said to switch out my jersey.”
She’s been donning that off-color uniform all season.
“I was really nervous because I thought if I messed up the other players would say ‘Why is this freshman on the team,’” Chanelle said. “Then, after I missed a ball and they said it was OK, I didn’t feel that way again. I didn’t feel pressure anymore.”
Barber added, “Having the kind of skill set that she has overshadows what year she is. The girls don’t really care what year she is. They noticed that she had the ability and welcomed her right in. She’s very quick to the ball, but what’s most impressive coming in as a freshman is her ability to read offenses. You don’t see that at that age.”
Chanelle said seniors Ashton Stocker and Caci Andreychuk have been especially receptive.
“I think she makes everyone, including me, feel more comfortable,” Stocker said. “She’s going to get to basically everything. Passing is the start to every offense, and she’s done a great job there too. … The passing is better than it’s ever been.”
Andreychuk said Chanelle’s passing has helped the offense flourish while making the other team work to score.
“I definitely trust her as a player,” Andreychuk said. “If she can get it, she will get to it. … I knew she was going to be good because she comes from an athletic family.”
Her family includes older brother Vernon Hargreaves, who is ranked the No. 1 football recruit in Florida and the top defensive back in the 2013 class in the country by several ranking services.
“I started playing cornerback because my coach put me there,” Vernon said. “I’m not really sure, but I guess defense does run in the family.”
Chanelle said it’s “fun” that they both picked similar positions in different sports.
“When he plays he puts everyone on lockdown so they can’t catch the ball,” Chanelle said. “My lockdown for me is not letting the ball hit the floor, so we kind of relate that way.”
Chanelle does have a leg up on her highly touted sibling — Vernon was not a freshman starter.
“You can’t tell she’s a freshman,” Vernon said. “Until the crowd starts chanting that she’s a freshman you wouldn’t even know. She plays up to other people’s levels. … She can do the same things I can do.”
Chanelle’s contributions were on display in Wharton’s 25-15, 25-19, 21-25, 25-19 victory against Steinbrenner Oct. 1.
The Warriors quickly swept the Wildcats 25-12, 25-14, 25-11 last season in large part because the backrow could not get clean digs and serve receives forward to start their offense.
That wasn’t an issue this season thanks in part to Chanelle’s 19 digs against Steinbrenner.
“She adds a lot of stability to that backrow,” Barber said. “We do a lot with blocking, and if you can have solid blocking adding someone like Chanelle to that backrow just adds so much more to your team. She’s a very much needed assist.”
Barber added that Chanelle is very coachable and willing to work hard to improve.
The Wildcats last made the playoffs in 2006 and have claimed only one district championship (1999) in the school’s 15-year history. Chanelle said she hopes they can add 2012 to their banner in Wharton’s gym.
“They’ve been so accepting of me starting as a freshman,” Chanelle said. “We’re all on the same team. It doesn’t matter what grade you are. We all come together and win.”
The Wildcats host Freedom Oct. 9 before traveling to district rival Bloomingdale Oct. 11 with a chance to clinch the top seed in the 8A-7 tournament with a win. Both matches start at 7:30 p.m.
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker
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