Story by Thomas Corhern, Cookeville
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COOKEVILLE -- Sometimes the unlikeliest of players can have a breakout season. Sometimes it's out of necessity. Sometimes it's out of pure will.
For Tacarra Hayes, a sophomore member of the Tennessee Tech women's basketball team, it happened this past season as she transformed herself from a role player during her freshman campaign to the Golden Eagles' workhorse just a season later.
Over the course of the 2009-10 campaign, Hayes took it upon herself to make her self a better player, and, in effect, make the Golden Eagles a better team.
It's for that reason Hayes was selected as the 2010 Tennessee Tech Athletics Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year.
"I'm very proud of Tacarra receiving this award," said Golden Eagle women's basketball coach Sytia Messer. "She really dedicated herself toward becoming a better basketball player this season. She's a hard worker and she very much deserves this award."
And once Hayes found about winning the award, she wasted no time spreading the news.
"I was really glad I won," she said. "I know how huge of a deal it is to win the award. As soon as I found out, I called everyone I knew. I sent a mass text message to everybody back home."
Hayes beat out a very worthy list of candidates including teammate Kellie Cook, as well as Kris Cambron (soccer), Diana Carson (golf), Lacie Coquerille (softball), Jen Hoffman (soccer), Ashley Mayhew (track and field), Leah Meffert (volleyball), Tiffany Palmer (cross country/track and field) and Leydi Zora (tennis).
Hayes is the fifth member of the Tech women's basketball program to be named as the Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year since the award's inception in 1994, joining Taunya Lovelace (1995), Diane Seng (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000), Janet Holt (2001, 2002) and Emily Christian (2005, 2006).
Rewind to a year ago. The Tech women had finished 9-21 and had just fallen in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference basketball tournament at Eastern Illinois. Hayes, just a freshman during that campaign, was sixth on the team in scoring with a 5.9 point-per-game average. In 30 games that season, Hayes had started only 11 times and averaged 19.3 minutes per game. Her shooting percentage was .324 (55-for-170), she averaged 2.8 rebounds a game and had 21 assists and 27 steals.
What a difference a year can make.