Crestview High School senior Georgia Small is the Daily News Large Schools Volleyball Player of the Year.
CRESTVIEW — Growing up, Georgia Small never fancied herself an athlete.
Considering her lineage, it was an odd conclusion to draw. Small’s paternal grandmother was a professional tennis player. Her father played professional baseball. Her mother played college softball.
Even her sister, Randi, older by just a year, played a little bit of everything.
But that wasn’t Small, now a senior on the Crestview volleyball team known for her high-flying heroics at outside hitter.
“I used to be a really unathletic child,” said Small, the Daily News Large Schools Volleyball Player of the Year. “Up until fifth grade, I refused to wear pants. I wouldn’t play softball or basketball with my sister because it required wearing something other than a skirt or dress.
“I hated it. I wanted to be a girly girl.”
Randi wouldn’t let her.
The summer before Small entered the sixth grade, Randi wanted to try for the middle school volleyball team, and she wanted her sister to join her. The two set up a makeshift string net in their backyard and practiced hitting balls over it.
“I couldn’t hit anything, but she was out there throwing everything at me,” Small said. “I was like, ‘I’m never going to play this sport in my life. Why am I doing this?’”
The answer to that question ended up being quite simple. Like so many others, Small fell in love with the sport’s community and the addictive nature of competition.
After Randi spent so many years dragging her around to every basketball and softball game in town, the two rotated in the same circles and Small became friends with the girls on Randi’s middle school varsity team, her love affair with volleyball starting in earnest.
“I just enjoyed the atmosphere,” Small said. “Softball, basketball, they’re all completely different, but volleyball — there’s only six of us on the court and we’re all in a 36-square-foot playing field; you kinda gotta like each other.
“It was totally different than any other sport I played.”
Now a half-dozen year later, Small is coming off back-to-back district championships with Crestview and an Elite Eight trip in 2018. A bit undersized for an outside hitter at 5-foot-9, she earned a scholarship to UWF for always playing high above the net, her skill level light-years removed from the string net in her backyard.
She finished the past year with a team-high 373 kills and a 36.8 kill percentage, adding 296 digs and 56 aces en route to 21 wins.
No one else in the area sniffed even 300 kills.
“I’ve been coaching since ’94,” Crestview coach Matthew Potts said at Small’s signing ceremony in November. “Adults, kids, women, men. I’ve been around the block. Georgia’s probably one of my top three.”
But the numbers aren’t what Small is most proud of. That honor will always go to her teammates, the people who made playing worth it in the first place.
“This year was a really good year for us,” she said. “I think all of our seniors really stepped up’ cause with last year we had some big shoes to fill, going to the Elite Eight. We all had to step up.
“We couldn’t have done it without each other. We always pushed each other.”