Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart Academy senior Lillie Laney will sign her National-Letter-of-Intent with the University of Tennessee at Martin Friday. (Courtesy Photo)
Lillie Laney has had a great senior year at Sacred Heart Academy.
Last fall she helped lead the Irish volleyball program to its first-ever state championship in ever-so dramatic fashion, climbing back from a 2-1 deficit to stun Athens in a five-set instant classic.
The 5-foot-10 middle hitter was brilliant in the state championship match too as she hammered home 19 kills and had seven blocks while hitting a blazing .436. In 39 attacks she committed only two errors.
Had she wanted to Laney could have joined her All-State teammate Angel Brown and played volleyball on the collegiate level, yet Laney is opting to go in another direction in a sport she’s been competing in and showing in since she was 5-years old.
On Friday Laney will sign her National-Letter-of-Intent to join the University of Tennessee at Martin equestrian team starting this fall. For Laney it’s a nice way to cap her prep career at Sacred Heart Academy, a couple weeks before she wears her graduation cap.
“It’s been an incredible year for me and I’m grateful for what has happened,” said Laney, who sports a 4.07 GPA and has been accepted into the UTM Honors School. “I feel like my hard work has paid off.”
In terms of hard work one Lillie Laney is one hard worker. Outside of carrying a perfect GPA through her high school years she’s also balanced travel volleyball with high school volleyball and horse showing year-round for years now.
Historically-speaking Laney’s accomplishments in equestrian are equally impressive too, if not moreso.
Born and raised into a family that worked with horses daily she was introduced into the sport at a young age. Her grandfather, Denis Cluley, is a thoroughbred horse trainer. By the time she could walk she was already a proficient rider and by the age of five she was competing and showing horses.
At 11 she won the Rookie All Age Horsemanship award at the AQHA Level One show, placing first out of 83 competitors. At 13 she won the Under All-Around at the 2019 AQHA Level One Show as she placed first in Trail, Horsemanship and Western Riding.
A couple weeks ago Laney and her 5-year old AQHA gelding Al Burn One (Stone) won a pair of titles at a competition hosted by Michigan State University.
Overall there seems to be a repetitive theme throughout with Laney in that she excels at what she does be it athletics or academics.
Laney visited the campus at the University of Tennessee at Martin a while back and said she really enjoyed the experience.
“I loved the campus and feel like I can really succeed there, it was wonderful,” she added.