Pine Grove's Mauney collecting trophies, experience

Nov. 11—PINE GROVE — At 30 years of age, Adam Mauney already has two volleyball state championships under his belt. Even so, he doesn't believe he's anywhere close to peaking as a coach.

Mauney led Hickory Flat to its first state title in 2021 in his first season as head coach. Last month, he guided Pine Grove to its first championship — again in his first season at the helm — and he is the 2023 Daily Journal Volleyball Coach of the Year.

The situations were very different. While it was a young program, Hickory Flat had become very competitive under Jamie Hayles. Mauney was her assistant for two years then took the heat post when she left for West Union.

Pine Grove started its volleyball program in 2019. There were plenty of growing pains, and Mauney took over a team that went 8-18 last season.

"I didn't have the intention of coming here and winning a state championship right off the bat," Mauney said. "I just wanted to come here and build a program and make something of my own. And it turned out pretty good."

Even with all his success, Mauney didn't start feeling comfortable in the role of volleyball coach until this past summer. He coached a middle school travel team and received good mentorship from fellow coaches Eric Lancaster (Alcorn Central) and Stephanie Cleveland (Belmont).

"I was still trying to figure things out," he said. "... I picked up club right after (last) season, tried to do things on my own, and we saw some success."

Mauney knew he could win at Pine Grove eventually. For one, it's his alma mater, so he knew the culture and knew the players would buy in.

But when the Panthers opened the season at New Albany's Bulldog Bash, they looked nothing like a state title contender. Many of the players had to take on new roles, which added to Mauney's challenge.

Somehow, it all came together.

"It was a whole lot of changing positions, learning new things — I thought it would take a lot longer than it did, but they picked up on things really quickly. We were able to do some stuff that I didn't expect us to be able to do until later on," Mauney said.

Beating rival Ripley for the first time in program history gave the Panthers a big confidence boost, as did a late-season win against Hickory Flat. Pine Grove met the Rebels again in the Class 1A state semifinals and won 3-2.

"We felt like if we could beat Hickory Flat, we could beat anybody in 1A," Mauney said.

What he ultimately wants, however, is to be able to compete with anyone, regardless of classification. That's one goal that drives Mauney to keep learning about the game and improving as a coach.

"I don't want us to be at the same level as a regular 1A team. I want us to be dominant and compete with the really good teams in our area."