Viera’s Bradford ready to be ‘defensive glue’ for Hawks this season


Published:

Viera High School's Hannah Bradford missed most of last season with a back injury. This year, the junior is healthy and ready to show why Coach Sarah Wayne calls her the best libero in the county.

Carl Kotala

There’s the leadership aspect of it, of course. And the fact that you have to hustle.

But when it comes right down to it, Viera High School libero Hannah Bradford loves the challenge of making sure the volleyball never hits the floor.

 “You always have to be focused, always have to be in tune with what’s going on, talking to everyone on the court,” the junior libero said. “That’s what I love about it.”

And after having to sit out most of last season with a back injury, Bradford is just happy to be healthy and ready to go.

“Last year was not the most fun to watch from the bench, but it kind of gave me a new perspective on how grateful I should be to be playing,” Bradford said. “We have a great team this year so I’m really excited to get back playing.”

Viera High School volleyball coach Sarah Wayne is excited about the prospect of having a healthy Bradford, too.

After leading the team in digs as a freshman, Bradford was limited to 20 sets last season because of her injury. She was able to return to play for the Cape Coast Volleyball Club in January, but after helping her team to a top five state ranking, the season was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The FHSAA voted to allow teams to start practicing on Aug. 24, but under an announcement made by Brevard Public Schools, practice will now begin Aug. 31 with games starting the week of Sept. 14.

When that happens, Wayne believes people will get to see an improved Bradford, who has been drawing the attention of Division I coaches.

“Hannah is set apart because obviously, she’s extremely dedicated and she’s very hard working,” Wayne said. “I’ve never had a player who has had to deal with something and come back … she’s stronger, she’s quicker and she’s faster.

“I told her (last season), ‘You’re not going to be on the court, so use this time to learn.’ All year long, she sat with me on the bench, sat with the coaching staff. I think sitting made her really learn the game a lot. She can read the ball really well.”

Originally a setter, Bradford said she started playing libero at age 13 and instantly loved playing the position.

By sitting on the bench last season, she said she was able to see the game from the coach’s perspective. That improved volleyball IQ will certainly serve Bradford and the Hawks well this season as they attempt to chase a district title with what is expected to be a very talented roster.

“We have some great chemistry this year,” Bradford said. “We’re kind of a really tight-knit team right now. We hang out with each other outside of volleyball. And we definitely have some amazing coaches … they’re just amazing people as well as coaches. They push us every day to be better.”

When she wasn’t conditioning this summer, Bradford could usually be found working as a lifeguard, a job she thoroughly enjoyed.

But make no mistake, when the Hawks are given the clearance to return, Bradford and her teammates will be ready to go.

“We’ve just been trying to keep our bodies as physically fit as possible,” she said. “We’re really looking forward to the day when we can be back in our Viera gym, playing. But I think right now, our main focus is keeping our bodies conditioned, ready to go when we get back on the court.”

With two years of playing time ahead of her, there’s no telling how good Bradford will be when her days of playing for the Hawks are over. But as her game continues to improve, Wayne is ready to put her in some pretty lofty company.

“She’ll be our defensive glue (this season),” Wayne said. “There’s multiple different levels of captains and she’s the defensive captain back there, calling plays

“Obviously, this is my opinion, but I think she’s the best libero in the county and, I would venture to say, probably the best I’ve had at Viera. And she’s only a junior. Her potential to grow and improve … there’s not much stopping her.”