By Rubin E. Grant
Andie Freedman was in her classroom at Hoover High School one Monday morning in July when her phone rang.
On the other end was Homewood athletic director Doug Gann, asking her if she had any interest in becoming the Patriots’ head volleyball coach.
The position came open suddenly when Cynthia Padgett moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, because her husband, Scott Padgett, the former Samford men’s head basketball coach, accepted an assistant coaching job at New Mexico.
Padgett guided Homewood to a 31-16 record, an area championship and a super regional appearance in her only season as head coach, in 2019.
Meanwhile, Freedman was all set to begin her sixth season as an assistant at Hoover under head coach Chris Camper. She wasn’t thinking about leaving, until Gann called.
“It was such a great opportunity that I definitely wanted to explore,” Freedman said. “It was crazy how it happened. He called me at 11 o’clock and I was (at Homewood) at 2:30 p.m. for an interview. I met with coach Gann and the principal, Mr. (Zack) Barnes.”
In three days, Freedman was offered the job and was more than happy to accept.
“I’m blessed to be in this position,” she said. “I think I fit well with the girls.”
Freedman is familiar with Homewood since she attended school in the Homewood system from kindergarten through the 10th grade. She played basketball and volleyball for the Patriots as a freshman and sophomore under coaches Susan Cook and Nivada Spurlock.
She transferred to Vestavia Hills for her junior and senior years and played both sports there under Mandy Burgess and Fran Braasch.
“I am blessed to have had such amazing coaches as role models and mentors,” Freedman said.
After high school, Freedman continued her volleyball career at the University of South Carolina, playing libero in 2004-2005. She eventually received a Bachelor of Science in economics from UAB, where she also earned her master’s in education.
Throughout her coaching career, Freedman has been the head coach of numerous club teams through the Birmingham Volleyball Club, but she credits Camper for her becoming a high school head coach.
“Coach Camper has been such a great mentor,” Freedman said. “He has supported me 100%. He allowed me to grow in the classroom and in coaching, improving myself so I could make the transition to a high school head coach.”
Since she wasn’t hired until July, Freedman had to hit the ground running, getting to know her players and getting them ready for the season while also adhering to safety guidelines during practices because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re social distancing, wearing masks, checking temperatures, making sure everything is sanitized and wiping the balls off during practice,” Freedman said. “We’re mindful that we need to keep the safest possible environment.”
Outside hitter Alex Hershbine. Journal file photo by Marvin Gentry.
Homewood opens the season Thursday at Clay-Chalkville and will play in the Juanita Boddie Tournament Friday and Saturday at the Finley Center in Hoover.
Freedman likes what the Patriots will bring to the court.
“I think we have a pretty strong team,” she said. “We lost only two seniors off last year’s team, so we have several veterans returning.”
The Patriots have six seniors, including setter Abby Wilson and her twin sister Jane Wilson, a defensive specialist. The others are defensive specialists Emma Johnson and Sarah Smith and outside hitters Alex Hershbine and Xeo Jenkins.
This is Smith’s first season to play high school volleyball because she was playing club volleyball in the past. She already has committed orally to Memphis.
The strength of the Patriots’ team comes from its juniors, including Olivia Brown, who is transitioning from middle hitter to outside hitter; Mackenzie Yoakum, a 6-foot, left-handed outside hitter; Olivia Outman, a setter; Haley Callaham, a libero; and Lilly Janas, a middle hitter.
Versatile sophomore Shawnise Gregory also will receive some court time.
“She’s athletic and quick,” Freedman said.
Homewood will compete in Class 6A, Area 9 along with Mountain Brook, Briarwood and Chelsea, which reached the state tournament last year. Mountain Brook is dropping down to 6A after winning the 7A title in 2019.
“We’re in a tough area, but we’re excited about playing Mountain Brook and the other teams in our area,” she said. “It will make us play faster and increase our tempo. I think we’re up for the challenge.”