Pine Grove Money collects awards and experience
Nov. 11—PINE GROVE — At 30 years old, Adam Mooney already has two state volleyball championships under his belt. However, he does not think he is anywhere near his peak as a coach.
Mooney led Hickory Flat to its first state title in 2021 in his first season as head coach. Last month, he led Pine Grove to its first championship — again in his first season at the helm — and was named the Daily Journal’s 2023 Volleyball Coach of the Year.
The situations were very different. While a young program, Hickory Flat has become very competitive under Jimmy Hyles. Mooney was her assistant for two years and then took over the heat position when she left for West Union.
Pine Grove started its volleyball program in 2019. There were a lot of growing pains, and Mooney took over a team that went 8-18 last season.
“I had no intention of coming here and winning a state championship right away,” Mooney said. “I just wanted to come here and build a program and make something of my own. It turned out pretty good.”
Even with all his success, Mooney didn’t begin to feel comfortable in the role of volleyball coach until last summer. He coached a middle school travel team and received good mentoring from fellow coaches Eric Lancaster (Alcorn Central) and Stephanie Cleveland (Belmont).
“I was still trying to figure things out,” he said. “…I joined the club straight after (last) season, tried to do things on my own, and we saw some success.”
Mooney knew he could win at Pine Grove in the end. First, it was his alma mater, so he knew the culture and knew the players would buy into it.
But when the Panthers opened the season at New Albany’s Bulldog Bash, they didn’t look like a state title contender. Many players had to take on new roles, adding to the challenge for Mooney.
Somehow, it all came together.
“It’s been a lot of changing situations, learning new things — I thought it would take a lot longer than it did, but they figured things out pretty quickly. We’ve been able to do some things that I didn’t expect us to do,” Mooney said. Do this until later.”
Beating rival Ripley for the first time in program history gave the Panthers a huge confidence boost, as did a late-season win over 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 anyone for first place,” Mooney said.
But what he ultimately wants is to be able to compete with anyone, regardless of their ranking. It is this goal that drives Mooney to continue learning about the game and getting better as a coach.
“I don’t want us to be at the same level as the average 1A team. I want us to be dominant and compete with the really good teams in our region.”