At the start of the volleyball season, North Hall coach Emi Hughes made a necessary change: moving Evann Rowland, a two-year starter at outside hitter, to middle hitter.
“Middle hitter isn’t as glamorous as outside hitter,” Hughes said. “But we had a need because we had graduated two mids who had played and started on the varsity level for two years.”
Rowland was reluctant at first, an understood byproduct considering she was a Second-Team All-Area performer from the outside hitter position in 2008 with 279 digs, 130 kills and 41 aces.
With the help of Hughes, however, Rowland’s reluctancy quickly turned to productivity and the results were staggering.
“She’s realized she was big enough and fast enough to play the position,” Hughes said. “She bought in a realized that not only could she produce as well, but could help this team just as much from that position.”
As a senior from her new position, Rowland amassed 223 total kills (2.3 per game), 106 aces and 12 assists. She led the Trojans offensively and earned the team’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player award while also being named first team All-Area 7-AAA.
“The numbers speak volumes,” Hughes said. “She’s a phenomenal player that worked extremely hard and was without a doubt one of the top players in the area.”
For her efforts, Rowland is The Times Volleyball Player of the Year.
Rowland was the catalyst for a North Hall team that had very few hiccups in the season.
Of the team’s 14 losses going into what would be their final match of the year, all but two were to Area 7-AAA No. 1 and No. 2 seeds Creekview and West Forsyth or teams from a higher classification.
In the Trojans season-ending loss to St. Pius X in the second round of the state playoffs, Rowland was once against the leader hitting for 12 kills, three blocks, five digs and an ace.
“(Rowland) played defense very well, she wasn’t afraid to throw her body on the ground,” Hughes said. “She learned (over her career) to be patient offensively too, and came into her own where serving was concerned by being a lot more consistent, which was a huge help for our team.”
Rowland finished the season seventh in the state in aces and third in Class AAA.
“She was involved in every aspect of our games and gameplans on both offense and defense,” Hughes added. “She is the total package and was the reason we won a lot of games.”
Numbers aside, however, it was the intangibles Rowland brought to the court that endeared her not only to Hughes, but the legacy of an already successful program.
“She brought a lot of energy and a great deal of passion to the court and that’s what I’ll miss about her next year,” Hughes said. “Of course I’ll miss her productivity and awesome kills, but mainly it’ll be her energy because it rubbed off on our other players...she was so intense.
“This honor is deserved,” Hughes added. “She had a player of the year type of senior season.”