Nellie Hackett has had ample time to learn on the varsity level.
Hackett was brought up to Regina’s varsity girls volleyball team as a freshman. She was part of the rotation, filling in at both libero and defensive specialist.
Hackett’s sister, Lily, was a senior and team captain that year for the Panthers, who won a Class 3A regional title before falling to St. Viator in in the sectional semifinals.
It was the last regional title for Regina, which aims to find a similar level of success this season.
Hackett, a two-year captain and starting libero, figures to play a key role in the postseason push.
“It’s past the point of finding my groove,” said Hackett, an Edison Park resident. “Now I’m at the point where I’m trying to help others. I’ve been playing on the varsity for four years, so I know the level of competition. … I’m entirely comfortable playing. It’s just about helping my teammates get to that point too.
“I think because I’ve been on the varsity team for so long, a lot of the girls reach out to me, bring up some of their own concerns about the team, about practice, whatever they feel. And I feel like they rely on me to help connect the coaches with the team, too. It’s something I take pride in.”
Regina coach Bobby Hughes says Hackett’s progression as a player can inspire her teammates.
Hackett was a starting defensive specialist and libero as a sophomore before playing exclusively as a libero last season.
Hughes saw last season as a “breakout year” for Hackett’s confidence.
“She’s key to our defense,” Hughes said. “She takes initiative. She helps establish what defense the girls are going to play in based off what she sees in the moment. It’s really nice to have that sort of leader on the court, a kid who the coaching staff can trust to make decisions in the moment. That’s what we teach in practice.”
Hughes views Hackett as the classic captain.
“Honestly, she just gets along with everybody,” Hughes said. “When you’re looking for a leader, you find to find someone that can find ways to communicate effectively with every aspect of your team, someone that has the respect from both players and coaches. She has this way about her, just an ability to go group to group and bring the unity with her.”
It’s a mindset Nellie Hackett has reinforced during weekly calls with Lily, who is a junior at Dayton. Lily tells her sister simply to be true to herself.
That means having a high level of faith in what the Panthers are and can be this season.
“I have so much confidence in us that, honestly, I think we have a chance at state,” Hackett said. “If not that, I’d like to see us go through the playoffs and win sectionals. When I was a freshman, we lost in the sectional semifinals. That was a tough one. And ever since then, I’ve wanted it. I really want that sectional title.”