By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
SAND ROCK – The legacy of volleyball players Sand Rock’s Lisa Bates has had to move on and play at the college level is strong. On Monday afternoon, that list grew to include another Lady Wildcat.
Versatile Jacey Stephens signed with Snead State at the Sand Rock gym. Mostly a right side and middle hitter throughout her career, Stephens posted 274 kills, 179 digs, 59 blocks, 36 aces and 12 assists for Sand Rock (33-10) last season.
“Signing that (scholarship) paper made it feel real. I’m very excited,” Stephens said. “I couldn’t have done it without my parents (James and Kim Stephens). They pushed me to get better and that really means a lot. It’s very special to have this opportunity. I want the little girls to see that. I want them to see that I’m a person they can look to, and I hope they just try to work as hard as I did to get there because I know they can.”
Stephens started out as a setter for the Lady Wildcats, but as her height and her skills developed, so did the positions on her resume.
“She started growing and we were like ‘Hey, we might need to move her somewhere else,’” Bates said. “She’s getting above the net really well, but she’s also a really good right side player. That’s what she plays more in club (volleyball). She hits really well from there. If I had anybody else who could get above the net that’s where she would’ve played for us (last season). She kind of took one for the team and played middle for us because that’s where her team needed her. She’s a real team player.”
Stephens’ athleticism and character are two things that Snead State volleyball coach Cristie Brothers noticed when she first looked at her. She said Stephens could possibly continue playing both the middle and right side positions.
“As a middle hitter she’s quick, and that’s important at our level because the balls are being set to the outside quicker, so it takes a quick middle hitter to be able to get into position for blocking,” Brothers said. “Right side is also another possibility. I think she may play more than one position as the year goes along, depending on who we’re playing against. That’s something I’m excited about. We’ve had some players over the past that weren’t as dimensional as she is. I’m really excited that she comes in with that.”
Stephens said Brothers and the rest of the Lady Parsons have made her feel welcome.
“Snead has an environment I want to be in. They’re all like family,” she said. “When I went there to do the tryout, they were all very nice and very welcoming. I’m super excited. I can’t wait to play with them.”
Bates said she’s proud of how much Stephens has done to get herself an opportunity to play at the next level.
“I know she’s been going to the Snead camps all during the summer. She plays club ball. She’s a good, moral kid that will represent us very well,” Bates said. “She has the work ethic to stick it out. She’s going to do whatever it takes to be successful. We’re excited she’s going to get that opportunity.”
So, too, is Brothers.
“One thing I know we’re going to get out of Cherokee County (volleyball players), and the two schools we’ve had recently being Sand Rock and Spring Garden, is work ethic. They come prepared to work. They’re gritty and put the team first,” she said. “(Spring Garden’s) Haleigh Molock just finished up with us and has been a great part of our team. I’m sad for her to go, but I’m proud to get Jacey.”