Grace Brown, Chestatee: Tallied 55 digs, 30 kills and four aces in three wins and a loss last week.
Katie White, Lakeview Academy: Recorded 58 digs, 32 kills and seven aces in two wins and two losses last week.
Kelsi Jones, West Hall: Had 63 kills, 24 digs and 10 aces in three wins and one loss last week.
Gabby Curry, Buford: Had 43 kills and eight digs in four wins last week.
Sydney Cleveland, North Hall: Notched 30 kills, 14 digs and three blocks in three wins and a loss last week.
Remington Hasty, Buford: Had a two-run home run, a triple, six RBIs and two runs scored in three wins last week.
Niki Cook, Buford: Hit a triple with an RBI and two runs scored last Monday and went 7 for 8 with an RBI, five runs scored and three stolen bases in wins on Tuesday and Thursday.
Kayla Street, Gainesville: Was the winning pitcher and went 2 for 4 with an RBI in a win against Johnson last Tuesday.
When opposing players step on the volleyball court to face Chestatee, one of the first people they notice is middle hitter Melanie Smith, a 6-foot-2 senior with confidence and energy that can intimidate almost any opponent, according to coach Julie Rushing.
Smith is intimidating to other teams but encouraging to her own, a contrast that makes her a key asset to the Lady War Eagles.
“She has a very strong presence on the court,” Rushing said. “She stands out on the court physically, and she has a very competitive nature, but she is uplifting and pushes her teammates.”
She is both a vocal leader for Chestatee and a leader by example, recording consistently high numbers of blocks and kills in each game. In five wins and one loss last week, Smith tallied 45 kills, seven blocks and four aces for the Lady War Eagles.
For her efforts, Smith is The Times’ Athlete of the Week.
With only one other senior on the team, Chestatee looks to Smith to set the pace of the game and help keep energy levels high.
“As a team, our big thing is having a lot of energy but staying focused, and I think that helps with being intimidating,” Smith said. “When I can get a kill right away, we all feed off of that energy when the ball hits the floor.”
The Lady War Eagles haven’t had such stellar weeks all season, though. The team only returned 10 players from the 2012 season, so rebuilding was key, but Smith wanted to make sure Chestatee improved so her senior season would be successful. Her own improvement was key in that as well.
“She is always looking to improve,” Rushing said. “Nothing she does is half-effort. It’s all or nothing with her.”
Her coaches help her improve physically, but Smith noted that one of they keys to her success this year was an internal change.
“My turning point (this season) was realizing that I needed to have confidence in myself,” Smith said. “On Monday we all said, ‘This is it,’ and I wanted it to be my best week.
“It was, and I’m really proud of myself.”
Besides her height, Smith’s mobility is another crucial aspect of her game. As a soccer player for Chestatee as well, she gets to use techniques from both sports to improve on the court and the field.
“She moves really quickly,” Rushing said. “Her body awareness is very good, and that’s one of the keys to her playing in the middle.”
Smith has played in the middle her entire varsity volleyball career, but she has explored other options on the soccer field that improve her hitting skills.
“I played goalie for the first time this past soccer season, and that really helped my reflexes on the court,” Smith said.
The regular season has ended for the senior, but Smith said she is excited to begin play in the Area 8-AAAA tournament tonight at Monroe Area High in Monroe.