Lydia Hubbard has come a long way.

When the senior moved to Pequot Lakes in the seventh grade, that’s when she picked up volleyball for the first time.

“I was new to it and wasn’t good right away,” Hubbard said. “I never really thought I would be that good.”

Her senior season saw Hubbard lead the area in kills with 167 as she led the Patriots to an 11-1 record in a shortened COVID-19 season to earn 2020 Dispatch Player of the Year.

“Throughout the years, I’ve just been getting better through smarter play,” Hubbard said. “My goals are to get more kills each season and I think that just comes from more experience.”

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Even though she may not have known her abilities in middle school, by high school she started to realize she had potential.

“I think freshman year I got to sit varsity — I didn’t play much — but it was just fun to be one of the only freshmen on the team and see how the older kids played,” she said. “I feel like that helped me learn a lot being with them and against them and that was kind of the turning point.”

Hubbard felt a calmness about the way she played her senior season which helped her thrive.

“In the past, I definitely got more nervous before games,” she said. “Then as I got older I just felt more confident playing and I felt like I knew the court better and could see the court better which helped me be more confident.”

As one of the taller Patriots, Hubbard was second on the team in blocks with 22.

“I think getting a block in the middle of a rally creates huge momentum for the team,” she said. “It’s very important to get blocks and to close the block on the outside hitters.”

Hubbard built a close relationship with not only her fellow senior teammates like Kate Bolz-Andolshek, Rita Ganley and Phoebe Glenn, but also her coach Chris Ganley.

“She was very good at seeing what we needed to work on and giving us helpful tips,” Hubbard said of her head coach. “She helped me in the back row this year especially since it was my first year playing the back row. It’s very important. Last year, she told me if I put in the work this past summer I would be able to play the back row and I gained the skills to play back there the whole time.”

Hubbard watches volleyball in her freetime and enjoys watching Nebraska’s outside hitter Lexi Sun in particular to learn from.

“I think they are super fun to watch and are very good,” she said. “It’s interesting to watch them play and see the skill level difference from high school to college. I watch for techniques and it’s interesting to see how fast the offenses they run.”

Along with her senior teammates, the 2020 Patriots made an impression on the underclassman, something Hubbard is proud of because she remembers what it was like to be an underclassman.

“We really try hard to include the underclassman and be friends with them,” Hubbard said. “That was the main goal, because as an underclassman, seniors can be pretty intimidating and we wanted to be super friendly. As an underclassman I was always intimidated by the upperclassmen. As I got to know them I just realized that no one is mean, it’s just scary if you don’t know them well.”

The 2019 state tournament run is the highlight for Hubbard in her high school career, but she also loved the matches against Mid-State Conference rival Park Rapids.

“The section finals game to get to state was probably the most fun I’d have just because it was a back-and-forth match against Park Rapids,” she said. “We always had fun against Park Rapids. The games were always close and we were always excited for the competition against them.”

Even though Hubbard has the skills to play at the next level she has decided to not play college volleyball.

“It was a very hard decision,” she said. “I love playing volleyball, but I just wasn’t sure if it was the right decision to continue on in college. It was a hard decision and I do love the sport.

“I’ll miss the team aspect. Obviously, it’s nice to be on a team and there are some built in friendships in that. I’ll probably miss that the most.”