WHEELERSBURG — Wheelersburg’s Kylee Barney, simply put, was a middle-hitting matchup nightmare —and a blocking machine.
Standing six feet and two inches tall, Barney made almost every night the Pirates played volleyball the past four years her own personal “block” party —amounting a school-record 289 career blocks.
Now, recruited as a middle blocker and middle hitter at the collegiate level, Barney will take her block show away from the Ohio River —and up north to Malone University.
That’s because Barney, last Sunday officially, announced her intention to play for the Pioneers and head coach Tanya Hockman— as Malone is a private Christian liberal arts college and a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference and NCAA Division II program located in Canton.
Barney will be four-and-a-half hours away from home in Wheelersburg, but she said none of the other collegiate programs she was in contact with — or took visits to — “felt like home like Malone did”.
“I chose Malone because when I went up there for a visit, it was the most exciting time I’ve ever had. Everyone up there was so amazing and the nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Barney. “They have what I want to study and even more amazing players and coaches within the volleyball team.”
That particular program of study is Zoology, as Barney said she plans to pursue attending veterinary school and becoming a veterinarian upon her graduation.
But before then, she will make the most of Malone as a member of the Pioneers.
She was the Division III District 14 Coaches Association Player of the Year, and a two-time Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association all-Ohio honoree —including as a second-team selection this past season.
In her three seasons of varsity volleyball at Wheelersburg, she set a school record of 289 career blocks along with 811 career kills — including her team-high 294 kills and 86 blocks as a senior.
Allen Perry, who completed his fourth season as the Pirates’ head coach, knew he had not only a tall talent —but a special one.
“Kylee was an incoming freshman when I started coaching at Wheelersburg. Standing over six feet tall, she showed a lot of potential early. She did everything that she needed to do her freshmen year and that offseason in club (volleyball) to become an impact varsity player. When she walked back into our first open gym that spring, I knew she was going to be something special and that I was going to have new options to consider in the lineup. That is always a nice problem to have. She earned that starting role and never looked back,” said Perry. “With nearly 100 blocks her sophomore year, she made her presence known. She has been a huge player for us, and without her, our team is going to look much different. I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach Kylee and I look forward to watching her future unfold. I am very proud of her.”
Barney benefited greatly, too, from her four years as a Pirate —and from her time playing club volleyball.
“Playing at Wheelersburg has improved my confidence level tremendously. I want to thank all my coaches at Wheelersburg and my club coaches as well. I tried out for SOVC my freshman year, and never in a million years did I think I’d meet so many new people and enjoy playing for amazing coaches. Those coaches at SOVC made me the player I am today and put in so much work to make me a better player. And it all worked out in the end, because my sophomore year I was able to play varsity,” she said. “It also improved my leadership skills and kind of not be as shy as I usually am. Hopefully, when I play at the next level, I can stay mentally focused on the game and have as much fun as I did in high school. I want to improve on being not so shy and open up and be more of a leader, even when I’m a freshman. I want to be able to play my best games every time and if I make a mistake, use it as motivation to do it right the next time.”
Barney and the Pirates, over four years, did little wrong —winning the Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship all four seasons, and reaching at least the regional semifinals in Barney’s final three campaigns.
Wheelersburg’s senior class, of which 2020 was their final season, collected 99 career wins against only seven losses.
Needless to say, but that senior unit is the winningest in program history.
“Playing at Wheelersburg for four years was an amazing experience. Everything about it was amazing, and the girls I played with were the absolute best. Everyone was so accepting of everyone in the gym. We were like a family and we were friends on and off the court as well,” said Barney. “Having such an amazing class of seniors was created by the seniors before us. We learned to become leaders individually and wanted the best for our team in every way possible. We all love the sport, so why not play our hearts out every year and every game.”
The greatest victory, no doubt, was the Pirates’ dramatic and epic comeback triumph in the 2019 regional championship match against Hiland —in which Wheelersburg lost the opening two sets and faced match point with Hiland having the serve.
The Pirates pulled off the miraculous and improbable win, rallying to capture the final three sets and the program’s first regional title as a result.
“When we won the regional championship against Berlin (Hiland), the feeling was amazing. We worked so hard that year to become better and we came together as a team and won the championship. I was so excited to be a part of that amazing feeling, because it was the most excited I’ve ever been while playing volleyball. And again, the girls that I played with made it all worthwhile,” said Barney. “I will never forget such an amazing experience and being able to pull it off in the end. Going to the state tournament was a surreal moment that I will never forget.”
But now, it’s time to look towards the future for Barney —as she plans to be a blocking machine for the Pioneers as well.
“Some of my goals at Malone are to play my best game and be positive for all the girls on the team,” she said. “I want to be able to showcase my talents on the court as well as being a friend off the court. Hopefully, I can collect a good amount of blocks up there, just like I was able to at Wheelersburg.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved