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Can Kira Hutson be any better for Metea Valley volleyball?

Metea Valley star Kira Hutson is not a vocal person by nature.

She knows that must change this season.

The 6-foot-4 Hutson let her tremendous play do the talking last year as she teamed with a terrific senior class to lead the Mustangs (40-2) to the first state championship in school history.

But as the only returning starter, the Florida-bound senior outside hitter will have to shoulder a much bigger leadership role as Metea Valley attempts to repeat.

“It’s going to come down to our leadership, so me and the other captain, (libero) Brenda (Reynaga), are just going to try and make sure that we teach the philosophies of last year, which is being disciplined throughout the season, Hutson said. “As long as we do that, we should have a good chance at defending our title.”

That will require Hutson to speak up more often and, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, walk like a queen while keeping a common touch.

“It’s definitely going to be hard because I’m more introverted,” Hutson said. “But I know that it’s something I need to do for this program to help it continue to be at that great level that we were at last year.

“It will definitely be a challenge, but I’m up for it.”

Sophomore setter Kelly McGrath said she is nervous about making her varsity debut but finds comfort in having an All-American like Hutson, the 2021 Naperville Sun Girls Volleyball Player of the Year, to rely on.

“She’s the most nice and welcoming person I’ve played with,” McGrath said. “I’ve never heard a mean word out of her mouth, so she’s a great teammate.”

Hutson smashed the single-season program record for kills last season but is primed to be even better. She played on the U19 national team that won the Pan American Cup in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in July.

The US beat Brazil in straight sets in the gold medal match to qualify for the 2023 FIVB World Championship in Amsterdam. Hutson contributed six digs, four points and an ace.

“It’s funny because you look at her last year, and I was just amazed at times, just with the power and the body awareness for somebody being as tall as she is,” Metea Valley coach Dave Macdonald said. “It’s awesome.

“Then she went with Team USA. You didn’t know if she could get any better, and she comes back here, and you’re like, ‘Oh, my goodness, she got a lot better.’”

Hutson said her time with the national team taught her the benefit of doing the simple things, like seemingly easy drills, to the best of her ability every time. She’s teaching her teammates about that and is confident the results will show.

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Improvement will be crucial for the varsity rookies, who know they will get every opponent’s best shot.

“We definitely have a target on our back, but we take that as motivation, and I think Kira has definitely taken that as motivation,” McGrath said. “We’re going to use her a lot.

“She gets a lot of people coming and watching us and cheering us on, so it’s going to be really fun.”

Hutson wants to see bigger crowds at matches.

“Ever since we won state, there’s definitely been more school spirit,” Hutson said. “Hopefully that will keep up.

“I feel like every sport is doing their part in trying to get school spirit up by winning. It’s more fun to go to school and get through all the academics if you have something to look forward to at the end of the day.”

Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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