Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — What you get out of something depends on what you put into it. If you don’t believe that, just ask Wheelersburg senior Kylee Barney.
For four years, Barney has put in the necessary work to be great. It’s paid its dividends … and then some.
The 6-foot-2 middle hitter doesn’t know what it feels like to miss out on a regional semifinal — the Pirates have won four straight district titles — and she doesn’t know what it feels like to not win a conference title — in the past four seasons, Wheelersburg is 59-1 in SOC II action.
There’s no question about it; Barney has been the eye of the successful storm. But it didn’t just simply happen. She had to work to get there first.
And because she did, her hard-earned legacy of success is intact. When people say her name, they’ll remember what she did for the program.
“I want people to remember me as the quiet girl who always put her heart into the game,” Barney said. “Hopefully everyone can see that. I’ve loved volleyball since I was a third grader, and all my hard work has put me where I am today. That’s what I want my legacy to be … hard work pays off, no matter what your name is, no matter how good you are. If you work hard and want to do something you love, that’s all you need to do to be successful.”
As a senior, Barney posted 294 kills, a career high, and 86 blocks. That helped Wheelersburg reach a Division III regional semifinal and win a fourth straight district crown. It’s also why she’s been selected as SOSA’s co-Volleyball Player of the Year.
Those numbers helped her put an end to her high school career with 811 kills and 289 blocks, by far a school record. She posted 71 solo blocks and a .378 hitting percentage in 244 sets.
“With the records I set at Wheelersburg, I am honestly so grateful. I have worked so hard to achieve something different in my career and being able to hold a record of blocks highlights the most hard work I’ve put into something,” Barney said. “If you had asked me my freshman year what I would be able to accomplish in the next three years, I would’ve said just being able to play varsity was my goal. I achieved that. That’s all I ever wanted. I didn’t care about any awards or records. I’m just glad I was a part of such an amazing program and team.”
When she was a junior, her team won one of the most memorable games in Southeast District history. After trailing 2-0 in a regional final, Barney and company rallied to beat Berlin Hiland in five sets to seal the program’s first-ever regional title.
If there’s one moment she could relive, it’s that one.
“That was the most exciting game I’ve ever played in my life, and being able to share that with the most amazing team was even more special,” Barney said. “I remember everyone just being so enthusiastic and happy that we had won. It will always be the greatest memory of my volleyball career because it was the greatest comeback of all time. No one can change my mind.”
Barney ended the fall as a first-team all-SOC selection, the Division III District 14 Player of the Year and a second-team All-Ohio honoree — her second career All-Ohio accolade.
But more importantly, she helped build a foundation for future success … alongside her five four seniors.
“Since my sophomore year, I was actually able to play in every game. My team and I have always had this mindset of having fun on and off the court. That’s it,” Barney said. “If we are able to achieve goals as the season goes along, that’s great. We wanted to win and in tournaments, it showed. We were able to win those district titles and that regional championship. I’m just so proud of my team. We would build each other up and that would help us through hard times. All those wins are just icing on the cake.”
In total, Barney and the Pirates’ senior class finished their careers at 99-7 overall. And remember, four of those seven losses came in regional tournament play.
That’s the model the younger girls in the program have had to learn from.
“This year’s senior class has influenced our younger girls tremendously. We wanted to make it more fun this year by cheering and getting excited with every little thing we did in practice. All we wanted to show the younger girls is that volleyball is supposed to be fun and if you love the sport, those tough practices will be nothing in the end,” Barney said. “All that hard work you put in at practice is what matters on the court during games. If you fight hard enough, mentally and physically, you will succeed in life. That’s what this senior class has done for the younger girls and hopefully, it carries on every year after this one.”