NEW HOPE — It’s been a celebratory February for the New Hope High School volleyball program, with seniors Madyson McBrayer and Kensley Woolbright each signing letters of intent to play college ball. McBrayer signed to play at Mississippi University for Women on Feb. 13, and Woolbright signed with Itawamba Community College on Friday.
It’s been an emotional period for Trojans head coach Allison Woolbright, seeing two players she’s coached for such a long time go on to the next level. Of course, to see her daughter sign to play in college was a particularly heartfelt moment.
“It’s kind of bittersweet. As a mama, I hate to see her go, but as a coach I’m very proud of the fact this makes, I think, our fourth player at New Hope to go on to the next level,” Allison Woolbright said. “That just says a lot for our program, it’s exciting.”
She had to fight back tears through both ceremonies, but spoke eloquently to honor two young women who have meant so much to her and the program.
“Madyson has been on the team as well as Kensley since seventh grade, and she is a phenomenal person both on and off the court,” Woolbright said. “Great leadership as well, very dependable. She definitely puts the team first, and I’m just so excited that she’s getting that same opportunity and going to my alma mater, The W.”
Kensley Woolbright picked up an offer from ICC back in the summer of 2022 and took her time with a decision but always knew it was a potential landing spot. For her, the program felt similar to what she has experienced at New Hope, and that’s what really influenced her when it came time to commit.
“This place has been my home for so long, and it’s hard to think about having to transition into a new program and not being with this team and these girls, but ICC was definitely a fit much like New Hope volleyball,” she said. “That was a super important factor in my decision.”
McBrayer looked for a similar connection and will stay close to home when she joins the Owls next fall.
“I’m pretty excited,” she said “I thought about it, took a long time with the decision, but I’m really excited to go there and pursue my college career.”
The proximity of The W offered some familiarity, but McBrayer’s connection with Owls head coach Halee Hensley was a big part of her decision as well.
“Coach Halee is coaching my club team, actually,” she said. “We’ve developed a close bond, and I think that’s one of the main reasons I’m going. I’ve really liked her as a coach, and I really liked the campus and the gym, I just really enjoyed it.”
The opportunity to play at the next level is special for both players, and it was special as well for them to see each other earn that opportunity. They’ve both been mainstays on the varsity volleyball team since they were in middle school and have been teammates in a number of other sports together as well.
“It was pretty great,” McBrayer said, reflecting on her time at New Hope. “I mean, Kensley was standing by my side through all of it, and we just did it all together. I’m going to miss it a lot.”
Kensley Woolbright echoed that sentiment and expressed her pride in seeing McBrayer and all of her teammates at New Hope succeed.
“We’ve played ball since birth together,” she said. “We’ve just done it all together, so to see her, I’m so proud of her. She’s worked insanely hard, and I think it’s also a testament to this program. We started and we were nobody, and to see girls now getting to play at the next level through their hard work, it’s really great to see and be a part of. And it’s great just for women’s sports. I say this a lot, but we sometimes get overlooked, and so to see us continue on at the next level and make those dreams reality, it’s really cool to be a part of.”
The continued success of its student-athletes is certainly a source of pride for New Hope in all sports, but it’s a mark of pride for the Trojans volleyball program in particular. For Allison Woolbright, it’s all about the work that her players have put in, and she said as much when asked about what it meant to see the program and her players succeed in so many ways.
“It means a lot, but it’s not just me,” she said. “I mean, these girls have been phenomenal players. They’ve all been dedicated. They all played ball in the offseason, all brought leadership qualities and not only that but set an example for other players to do great things and try to do their best.
“We’ve got a lot more. I feel like we’ll be back here next year with at least one or two more, hopefully maybe more, that are getting to go onto the next level as well.”
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