1. What age did you start playing volleyball and was it the first sport you played?
- I began playing volleyball at 9 years old when my mom brought me to my first practice. Before this, I had pretty much played every sport in the book, but my first love was basketball. I cried my eyes out as I walked through the doors of sport court and kneepads, but left with a new love and appreciation for a sport I was naturally gifted at and haven’t looked back.
2. What is your favorite volleyball and non-volleyball memory from high school?
- My favorite volleyball memory from high school was from this past 2017 season, my senior year. We faced the same team for the third straight year at the State Championship. It was the tie-breaker year. We lost my sophomore year, won my junior year, and won the tie-breaker by taking home the gold my senior year.
What I love most about this night were the emotions that happened when we all sat down on the ride home. There came a realization that some of us had played our last volleyball match ever and taking the cavalier blue off of our backs sunk in.
As music played in the background you didn’t hear much of the songs, just the sobs of teammates. Well, sisters to be exact. Some were preparing to say goodbye to the sport they loved, as well as the people they had grown to love. I also was saying goodbye to the program that built me to be the person I am today. Paula Kirkland has not only influenced me on the court, but has also showed me what it means to put others before yourself as a selfless teammate.
It is because of the girls that stood beside me through my four years at Dorman, that I have the opportunity to represent South Carolina on a platform such as Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. It is because of my sisters that I play the game like I do, even when they don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
- My favorite non-volleyball memory from high school, though most of my time was consumed by volleyball, would definitely be meeting my now best friends. A little shout out to Andrew Greene, Jacob Bradley, Chase Ward, Anna Renwick, and Sami Scott for their never-ending support, never missing a game, and always being just what I needed when I experienced days that weren’t so great. I never knew I could grow so close to people in a short amount of time, but I wouldn’t trade one moment for the world. It’s because of these guys and so many more that are too many to name, that make goodbyes so hard. It will just make my visits back home that much sweeter though.
3. What were some of the colleges recruiting you to play and what was your deciding factor to play for the University of Florida?
- I had many schools to choose from, but for some reason I only ever considered Penn State or The University of Florida. As far as the deciding factor on where to take my career, I never had a set reason as to why I chose UF at the time. It was mainly just a step of faith knowing that UF was where my heart always was and it felt like exactly where God wanted me. I committed during my sophomore year of high school. At the time, I made the choice without a true reason as to why. As I got closer to my report date, and even deciding to graduate early, I knew I made the best decision. It became so apparent to me that the University of Florida, Mary Wise, her staff, and the girls who have been through the program are exactly what I needed to become the best possible version of myself.
4. What do you think the biggest difference will be going to play from the high school to college level, especially with such a successful Top-10 program like Florida’s?
- The biggest difference going from the high school game of volleyball to the collegiate level will definitely be the speed of the game. It’s a whole new game in and of itself. You’re forced to read faster, make decisions sooner, and move quicker than ever. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish all of this.
5. How was it meeting April Ross and receiving Gatorade’s National Player of the Year Award?
- I never imagined that I would be sitting in my living room and turn around to April Ross holding the Gatorade National Player of the Year trophy, but it happened! At first, I was at a loss for words, I literally didn’t know what to say. To receive the award from a former GNPOY winner was a feeling like no other. It inspired me to one day have the opportunity to surprise another girl with big dreams in her living room when she least expected it. To be able to represent South Carolina, Dorman, Upward, my friends, and family at such a high level is something I will never take for granted. The platform that God has blessed me with, along with the talents to glorify Him in all that I do, is still hard for me to fathom – that I get the opportunity to do it.
6. Growing up who was your biggest inspiration?
- Growing up, my biggest inspiration was my older brother. We grew to be not only close siblings, but also best friends. When I turned thirteen, Christopher took me out on a “dinner date” to show me how a guy should treat me. He did everything from holding the door, giving me his coat, and many more things you don’t see very often anymore. It was then I knew he was the epitome of a real man. I had the opportunity to learn from him as I watched him face obstacles and grow through adversity. He showed me what hard work looks like, what perseverance means, and where faith in God’s plan can carry you in life. Now one of the most successful men I know, Christopher continues to be the best example of a man of God.
7. What advice do you have for younger girls who want to be in your shoes and play at the next level?
- To all the little girls who dream of playing in college and to every young athlete with aspirations to compete at the highest level, never lose faith – in your teammates, in your coaches, and most importantly in yourself. The power that you hold as an individual is so big. It never occurred to me when I first began to realize how far I could take volleyball or that I could have such a huge platform with the sport. I never thought I would be a finalist, let alone win the Gatorade National Player of the Year. I never thought I would play for the Women’s Junior National Team with USAV, let alone win MVP in Costa Rica, -but I did. It never came easy. There will never be a day where you don’t have to work hard. There will never be a practice where you can skip a rep. Treat every play like it’s your last, because in essence, you never know when your last play will be. Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is the little girl who fell in love with game and never looked back. Play for her. Play for the little girl in the stands who looks at you and tells her dad “I want to be just like her.”
8. If you had to pick a song to describe your life, what would it be?
- A song that describes my life is “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave. It starts by saying, “Seems like all I can see was the struggle, bound by shackles of all my failures.” I relate so much to this because too many times I get wrapped up inside my own head counting every time I fail. Keeping track of every time I shank a ball, miss a swing, or have a blocking error. When one turns into two, and three, and so on, it never looks pretty. Then the chorus of this song says, “Stop fighting a fight that’s already been won. I am redeemed, You set me free.” This gives me such peace of mind knowing that with every bit of adversity that I face, every failure I make, God knows what He’s doing in my life. These trials that we face are merely His mercies in disguise. Even though sometimes it takes a while to recognize this, there is always the light at the end of the tunnel. I can shake off the chains, He is not done with me yet. I am still a daughter of the King. I am redeemed.