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Hagerstown's Tinkle signs with Georgia volleyball

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Hagerstown senior Regan Tinkle (10) rises for a kill attempt against the defense of Knightstown’s Trinidie Newby (12) and Gwen Dyer (11) during their regular season TEC volleyball match Sept. 30 in Knightstown. Tinkle was second in the area in kills this season with 402, was named First Team All-State, and has inked a letter of intent to play Division I women’s volleyball for the University of Georgia starting in the fall of 2020.
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Early Friday evening in the Hagerstown High School Auditorium, HHS senior Regan Tinkle signed a letter of intent to play Division I women’s volleyball for the University of Georgia starting in the fall of 2020. From left to right are HHS volleyball Head Coach Brian Dale, Regan Tinkle, mother Kristi Gunatilake, and father Brent Tinkle.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

HAGERSTOWN — For the third time in three days, a local high school varsity volleyball star has inked an agreement to play women’s volleyball for a NCAA Division I university.

After New Castle seniors Zoe Conway and Melani Shaffmaster signed letters of intent last Wednesday to play volleyball for Ball State University and the University of Minnesota, respectively, Hagerstown senior Regan inked her letter early Friday evening in the HHS Auditorium to play women’s volleyball for the University of Georgia beginning in fall of 2020.

“I’ve been wanting to play college volleyball at the highest level for a long period of time,” Tinkle said, “and now I’m going to get the opportunity to do that. I’m really excited.”

With the numbers Tinkle generated during her high school volleyball career, she probably could have gone almost anywhere on scholarship to play volleyball, and Tinkle was asked why she chose Georgia, a member of the Southeastern Conference.

“When I made my visit, the atmosphere down at Georgia was incredible,” Tinkle replied. “The campus is really nice, the girls on the team were very accepting of me, and they have a great coaching staff who can bring out the best in me. I felt it was a great fit.”

Tinkle was asked what other college volleyball programs she considered.

“I considered Arizona State, Long Beach State (in California), and a couple others,” Tinkle responded. “I really like warm weather.”

Tinkle was an outstanding hitter in high school, recording 1,215 kills over four seasons, and was asked if Georgia plans to use her in a similar way.

“I believe that’s the plan they have for me,” Tinkle stated. “I want to play a lot starting in my freshman year, so I’m willing to do whatever they ask of me.”

Hagerstown High School volleyball Head Coach Brian Dale, who was the Tigers’ coach all four years of Tinkle’s high school career, has an idea of how Georgia plans to use her.

“Regan was a really good middle hitter for us her first two years,” Dale said. “Then we moved her to left outside hitter starting her junior season and she was outstanding. But as good as she is from the left side, she’s even better as a right-side hitter. We just didn’t have the luxury of using her there in high school, but I think that’s the position Georgia has planned for her.”

Now that the high school volleyball season is over, Tinkle won’t remain idle in the sport until she goes to Georgia.

“Regan has been playing at Munciana for a long time and will continue to do so,” Dale explained. “Coach Black down in Georgia has maintained in contact with Regan and her coaches at Munciana, and they know what to do to help her get prepared for the college game in Georgia so that she can play a lot as a freshman.”

Of course Tinkle knows she’s not going to Georgia to play volleyball for the Bulldogs. There are college classes to attend and complete and a degree to pursue.

“I plan to major in something in the health sciences field,” Tinkle noted. “As for a specific major or career I want to pursue, I’m undecided at this point.”

The fact that Tinkle is going to play women’s volleyball at a Division 1 university is no surprise given the outstanding four-year varsity career she had at Hagerstown.

Tinkle was a varsity member of the Tiger volleyball team all four years of her high school career. During that time, Hagerstown won four straight Tri-Eastern Conference titles (without losing a match), four consecutive Class 2A Sectional 42 championships, and a regional title.

Tinkle’s freshman season was the year the Tigers won that regional championship and advanced to the Class 2A southern semi-state semifinals against Evansville Mater Dei at South Decatur High School.

Hagerstown won the first two sets against the Wildcats that day, but Mater Dei stormed back to win the next three sets, denying a talented Tiger team the opportunity to win a semi-state and advance to the state finals.

Nevertheless, Tinkle had an excellent freshman campaign with 187 kills, 20 digs, an assist, and 104 blocks.

As is usually the case, Tinkle’s numbers increased appreciably during her sophomore season of 2017. Tinkle recorded 273 kills, 27 service aces, 34 digs, an assist, and 121 blocks for a Tiger team that again won the TEC title and a sectional championship.

Tinkle’s junior season in 2018 again was an excellent one, as her numbers in four of the five statistical categories went up. Tinkle recorded 353 kills, 63 service aces, 68 digs, nine assists, and 94 blocks for the TEC champs and regional runner-up Tigers.

Tinkle plus classmates Jessica Swimm and Alexis Ellis posed a formidable front line for opponents to counter, and with Ellis emerging as Hagerstown’s primary block artist, Tinkle’s blocks decreased substantially but her kills total continued to rise.

In the just-completed 2019 season, senior Tinkle recorded 402 kills, 65 service aces, 116 digs, 11 assists, and 16 blocks for a Tiger team that again won the TEC and a sectional. but were eliminated from the IHSAA tournament by eventual Class 2A state champion Heritage Christian in the regional semifinals.

Tinkle’s kills total of 402 was second in the area this season only to New Castle junior Mabrey Shaffmaster’s state-leading total of 670. Tinkle’s hitting percentage this past season of .538 was the fourth-best in Indiana.

First Team All-State, TEC All-Conference and Co-Player of the Year, and naming to the C-T All-Area Volleyball Team are just some of the honors Tinkle has received for her volleyball prowess.

“Regan is a really good athlete and great volleyball player,” Dale remarked. “But as good as she is there, she’s an even better person. Her signing with a Division I university is a big deal to this high school and community, and I know I and many other people are going to take time to follow what she does in college.”

The graduation  of Tinkle, Swimm (who will play volleyball for IU-East), and Ellis leaves a huge void that Coach Dale will have to fill for the 2020 season.

“Having three talents like Regan, Jessica, and Alexis in the same class is a one in a generation opportunity for me,” Dale added. “They had power and height, and we don’t have three like that remaining in the program. But we’ll move forward with a change in philosophy. We’ll need to become a very good defensive team and a very good serving team because we won’t have the power game we’ve had the past six seasons. But that’s the challenge of coaching.

“We still should be pretty good, and we’ll try to make it five TEC and sectional titles in a row next season.”