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Small Player, Big Hitter
Hipple packs a punch for Panthers

At 5-foot-9, Audrey Hipple is hardly small for a girl her age.

However, by volleyball standards - even on the high school level - she hardly fits the prototype for the average outside hitter.

Yet throughout her career, the Parkview senior has demonstrated that despite her small stature, she packs quite a large wallop.

"I like to say I'm (closer to) 5-10," Hipple said with a laugh. "I've been told that I don't look really intimidating, but once I hit a few times, it's like, 'Whoa.'"

The surprising force she puts behind every attack has made Hipple one of Gwinnett County's more respected hitters, and is a big reason the Panthers (11-11) remain one of the top contenders in Region 8-AAAAA play that began Tuesday.

"She really gets everything she can get out of her frame," Parkview coach Catherine Zidow said. "She really has a dynamic approach and really has a good arm swing."

Strong mechanics certainly play a major role in Hipple's hitting power.

And she credits the work she does during the summer with the A5 volleyball club - as well as the volleyball performance classes she has with A5 coach Bob Westbrook throughout the year - as helping her get the most power possible out of her swing.

That work has certainly showed up in her performance this season as she is among the team leaders with 117 kills coming into the Panthers' matches in the Collins Hill Invitational tournament last weekend.

"It's a lot of drills and strength training," Hipple said. "I go through a lot of repetitions, and I've been working at it a really long time."

That kind of work has come in handy for Hipple since she started playing volleyball when she was in the seventh grade.

It has been especially beneficial since she began her Parkview career and her talent is still blossoming - not surprising for a girl who is still only 16 years old despite being a senior and doesn't turn 17 until next month.

But as she has in her school work, she has constantly demonstrated she is not in over her head on the court against older opponents.

"I started (a year) earlier in school," Hipple said. "I just tried to get better. Once I started (playing high school volleyball) and I got used to (playing against older opponents), I figured I could handle it."

She also has never seemed intimidated when working against much taller middle blockers across the net from her.

"She ... plays better when she's got a bigger blocker across from her," Zidow said. "She doesn't let her size hinder her."

That combination of poise and work ethic hasn't just been a benefit to Hipple's hitting power.

Zidow has seen her senior develop into a strong all-around player - which can be seen in her 98 digs and 50 service aces so far this season.

"She has incredible ball control," Zidow said. "She almost never makes errors and she has the potential to be a dynamic hitter. That's a rare combination."

Still she knows there's always room for improvement, not only for herself, but also the entire team.

Parkview has gotten stronger after a slow start by winning six of its last eight matches, culminating in a runner-up finish in Gold Bracket of the Collins Hill Invitational last weekend - a trend Hipple wants to continue.

"I want to be consistent and try to keep the team up," Hipple said.

SideBar: The Hipple File

Who: Audrey Hipple

Sport: Volleyball

School: Parkview

Class: Senior

Favorite TV show: Any "Law & Order" series

Favorite sports team: Atlanta Braves

Dream job: Anything in criminal justice field

What do you like so much about volleyball?: "It's a true team sport and fun to play"

Noteworthy:

· Among Parkview's team leaders this season with 117 kills heading into last weekend's tournament

· Also has 98 digs and 50 service aces on the season

· National Honor Society member who doesn't turn 17 until next month

· First-team All-County selection as a junior and Daily Post's preseason Super Six this season