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Wednesday, November 23, 2016, 6:15 pm

Before they were Vols: Hembry and Villano

It’s that time of year again when we have to start saying goodbye to the Vols leaving us this season. Today we’ll look back at the two UT seniors who have spent the last four years here on Rocky Top, what was said about them as they started their college careers, and what they thought about coming to Tennessee.

RAINA HEMBRY

hembryHembry attended Central Catholic in Portland OR. Her team won their third straight state championship her junior year and came in fifth her senior year. She played club ball at Oregon Northwest Juniors Elite, and placed 18th at the 2012 AAU Nationals. She was #45 on PrepVolleyball’s Senior Aces list and made Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50 list of the top seniors in the nation.

Patrick: “She’s a very athletic, long player who really plays the game of volleyball very well. She will come in and really challenge for the middle hitter position, but also is flexible enough to put her on the right side. She’s a very advanced blocker for her age, which is something that usually takes a while to get proficient at. She’ll come in and play defensively at the net at a high level. The other thing that’s exciting about Raina is her ability to attack the ball in front and behind the setter equally well. Raina is a winner… Raina is going to come in with a lot of high-level volleyball experience and training.”

PrepVolleyball: “Blessed with great size and athleticism, Hembry caught the attention of college recruiters… Hembry is a supreme blocker with great quickness and court awareness and exceptional instincts. A very good slide hitter, Hembry is not a vocal rah-rah type but lets her performance do the talking. Hembry‚Äôs potential is still on the rise so Tennessee may be seeing an even more polished player when she arrives in Knoxville next fall.”

Hembry: “I chose Tennessee because I really liked the coaches and the girls were super cool. And I really liked the area, even though I’m from Portland and this is a smaller town. It’s different but I like the small-town big-college… To be a Lady Vol, the attention that comes with it, there’s a certain reputation you have to uphold. I like the gear we get. And people know who you are just walking into a room they’re like ‘Oh, that’s a volleyball player’, so it’s kinda cool.”

BRIDGETTE VILLANO

villanoVillano attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale FL. Her team was a state semifinalist her junior year and lost in the championship match her senior year. She played club ball for Boomers Volleyball, and placed ninth at the 2011 AAU Nationals. She earned Volleyball Magazine Third Team All-American honors, was an AVCA Under Armour All-American Honorable Mention honoree, and made PrepVolleyball’s Senior Aces list.

Patrick: “Bridgette is an elite athlete that we’re excited to get on the court. She played mostly as an outside hitter during high school and her club career, which allowed her to learn the game at a very high level. She brings in quite a bit of experience and gives us a very athletic skill depth at our defensive specialist and libero positions. She’s going to vie for playing time pretty early in her career.”

High school coach Lisa Zielinski: “Bridgette is quick and athletic and has a do or die attitude when it comes to defense.”

PrepVolleyball: “An exceptional athlete… Bound for Tennessee, she shows promise of becoming an elite level libero at the collegiate level.”

Villano: “[Being a Lady Vol], it means a lot. Being a part of a team and a family is really a great thing because there’s always someone here who has your back. And they have a really good support system here for women’s sports, so it really makes me feel involved and important.”