Funny how things change.
Volleyball used to be Scarlett Kimbrell’s side hustle. Growing up in Franklin, she had always been one of the centerpieces of a girls basketball team that viciously dominated its competition all through elementary and middle school, then arrived at the high school and immediately turned the Grizzly Cubs’ fortunes around.
She’s still doing her thing in basketball, but her priorities have shifted a little bit lately.
“I had always favored basketball and always been really serious about AAU, and when I started playing volleyball club it was always a side sport,” Kimbrell said. “But then as I started growing as a player, I could tell my passion was really in volleyball and I wanted to pursue more of that side.”
The junior’s newfound passion for volleyball has become more and more evident. A major all-around threat who helped the Grizzly Cubs find significant improvement this fall, Kimbrell is the Daily Journal’s Player of the Year.
Primarily a middle blocker for her club team (Circle City 17 Purple) as well as during her first two high school seasons, Kimbrell faced a challenge this fall when new Franklin coach Patrick Carlson asked her to move to an outside hitter spot and also stay in the rotation to play on the back row.
She responded in every conceivable way. Kimbrell had 334 kills on the season while posting an impressive hitting percentage of 30.1%. She also ranked second on the team with 322 digs, adding 47 blocks and 15 service aces.
Whatever Carlson needed her to do, she did it.
“It was definitely a really big change for me,” Kimbrell said. “The aspect of volleyball compared to the middle and the outside is completely different, so it was definitely hard, but Carlson really helped me through it. He’s a great coach, and he knew I could do it and he held me accountable — and once I got to the outside and played all the way around, it was really fun and I really did enjoy it.”
It also helped the Grizzly Cubs become a much better team. After struggling through a 13-18 campaign a year ago, Franklin improved to 21-10 this fall and ended a nearly decade-long drought against rival Center Grove by beating them twice before dropping a heartbreaking five-setter at Columbus East in the sectional championship match.
Though the loss was disappointing in the moment, Kimbrell is able to view the season from a different perspective now.
“Overall, I’m really proud of our season,” she said. “We had a big turnaround from last season, when we weren’t the best, and we really persevered. But as far as the sectional game, it was really disappointing and sad. We had so much momentum those first two sets, and then games didn’t go our way and then our setter (fellow All-County selection Kennedy Urban) got hurt, and it all just went downhill from there because the setter is such a vital player to the team.”
Kimbrell was pretty vital herself — and over the last year or so, colleges have started to take notice. Schools from across the country have been showing interest, whether out west (Gonzaga) or to the south (Jacksonville, where former Grizzly Cub teammate Cami Kelsay was a redshirt freshman this season).
The future appears to be bright in what used to be Kimbrell’s “other” sport.
Of course, she’s still got one more year left in a Franklin uniform — and whether she ends up going back to her more familiar middle blocker position or stays on the outside, she figures to be the center of attention.
The 2022 All-County team for volleyball:
Mya Ayro, Greenwood senior: Posted a county-best 359 kills and set the school’s career record … Also contributed 255 digs, 41 aces and 17 blocks while posting a hitting percentage of 32.5% … Will play at the University of Connecticut next fall.
Ella Dean, Greenwood senior: Racked up 745 assists on the year, going past 1,000 for her career while simultaneously setting Ayro for her 1,000th kill … Contributed 184 digs, 44 aces and 44 kills for the Woodmen.
Reese Dunkle, Center Grove sophomore: A force in the middle for the Trojans, totaling 275 kills on a 31.8% hitting percentage … Added a team-best 134 blocks and 11 service aces while helping her team to a sectional title.
Scarlett Kimbrell, Franklin junior: Put down 334 kills while hitting over 30% … Also established herself as an all-around threat by totaling 322 digs, 47 blocks and 15 aces.
Sophia Sabol, Center Grove junior: Former defensive specialist blossomed as an all-around player, posting 253 kills, 312 digs, 48 blocks and 32 aces while helping Trojans to a sectional championship.
Kennedy Urban, Franklin junior: Passed out a county-high 897 assists for the Grizzly Cubs while also contributing 240 digs, 39 kills, 27 service aces and 21 blocks.
Sheridan Young, Center Grove junior: Anchored the Trojans’ back row all season long, topping the county with 518 digs … Also chipped in with 91 assists and 25 aces.
Alana Aucremanne, Center Grove; Brooklyn Bell, Greenwood; Maria Bellapart, Greenwood; Mara Beumer, GCA; MacKenzie Bieker, Edinburgh; Gracie Crawhorn, Edinburgh; Naomi Hillenburg, GCA; Rose Mahin, Franklin; Kennedi Morrison, Whiteland; Ava Myers, Indian Creek; Kate Pinnick, Franklin; Aubrey Runyon, Franklin; Olivia Shingleton, GCA; Kyah Streeval, Edinburgh; Jessica Walsh, Edinburgh; Adriana Williams, Indian Creek; Faith Wiseman, Indian Creek; Ellen Zapp, Center Grove