Nolensville volleyball is officially a member of the big leagues.

The Lady Knights moved up to Class AAA for the 2021-23 TSSAA classification cycle after winning back-to-back Class AA state titles in 2019 and 2020.

Through the first month of this season, Nolensville (19-1) has been up to the task. The team is hoping to keep its state championship streak going too.

“We still have the same expectations,” said senior libero Maymie Guthrie, a North Florida commitment. “We hold ourselves to a really high standard, and it’s important to have high expectations because it’s going to be more difficult this year.”

Nolensville is no stranger to Class AAA competition, though.

The Williamson County high school grew by an estimated 350 students from when it opened in Fall 2016 to last year. Young knew it was only a matter of time before Nolensville would be sent to Class AAA – plus his team was highly skilled thanks in part to nearby travel programs – so he scheduled non-district games against the likes of Brentwood, Franklin, Page, Ravenwood and Siegel.

That preparation has paid off.

Nolensville has lost just one match this season – a 3-1 defeat to eight-time defending Class AAA state champion Brentwood on Sept. 7 – and is currently ranked No. 53 in the country by MaxPreps.

“We’ve played a lot of the bigger AAA teams already,” Young said. “There wasn’t really an intimidation factor. If we had never seen these teams before, we probably wouldn’t have known what we were getting into.”

Remarkably, the Lady Knights haven’t taken a step back despite also losing five key seniors to graduation. Freed-Hardeman commitment Avery Young, Brett’s daughter, said new players have emerged.

“This team works together so well,” she said. “When we come together and everyone does their job, it’s so fun, exciting and uplifting to see. Everyone has risen to the challenge, no matter what grade they’re in.”

Several Lady Knights are on pace for career-best seasons.

Outside hitters Maggie Rickert (195) and Avery Young (131) lead the team in kills, while freshman Kaira Knox (130) has become a go-to option on the right side. Caroline Johnston and Ellie Tant split setting duties.

Nolensville has also been solid on defense. Maggie Allred (68 blocks) and Madeline Mcneely (35) anchor the middle with Guthrie (252 digs) patrolling the back row.

Newcomer Peyton Neal has provided perhaps the biggest spark. The Marshall commitment can contribute at nearly any position and has spent the last three matches at outside hitter while Rickert recovers from a minor injury.

“She’s been a huge addition for us,” Brett Young said. “She’s a great back row player, but this past week she has stepped in opposite of Avery and done a great job swinging it from the outside.”

It remains to be seen if all that will be enough to topple mighty Brentwood, which has also experienced heavy turnover since last year.

After taking the first set from the Lady Bruins 25-21 last week, Nolensville dropped the next three 25-23, 25-18 and 25-17. The two teams meet for another District 11-AAA showdown on Thursday, Sept. 23.

“That was a tough loss. But it’s OK,” Guthrie said. “We can learn from our mistakes and really work from that. It kind of gives us that fire to come out stronger next time.”

No matter who the Lady Knights face in the Class AAA postseason, Brett Young is looking inward to make sure his squad is ready for its next challenge.

“We know that if we’re going to beat the upper-echelon teams, we have to be consistent in all aspects of our game,” he said. “And we can do that. We’re a pretty balanced team.”

Russell Vannozzi is the sports editor for Main Street Preps and Main Street Nashville. Vannozzi, a 2019 Lipscomb University graduate, was previously the sports editor for the Robertson County Connection. He has won multiple TPA and TSWA awards.

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