It was a big day for both volleyball player and coach at Dixie County (Cross City) on Wednesday afternoon.
Anna Ellison, who was a Mainstreet Daily News second team All Area selection this past year, fulfilled her dream of playing college volleyball by signing with Palm Beach State College.
“I’ve loved volleyball since middle school and I’ve known since my ninth or 10th-grade year that I wanted to play in college so I’m very blessed to have the support of today,” said Ellison, who realized her potential as a sophomore while playing club ball at Prostyle Volleyball Academy (PSVA) in Newberry. “That’s when I thought ‘maybe this could happen,’ and then by my junior year I was like, ‘ok, I definitely think I can make this happen.’”
Her coach couldn’t be more proud.
“It’s very special for me because Anna is the first player that I’ve had the pleasure of coaching who has signed with a college to play college ball,” said Dixie County coach James Bendel Jr., who led the Bears to the Class 1A-District 7 title and a state playoff appearance in his first season. “Anna is one of those players that you’re lucky to have on your team. She’s willing to do whatever is necessary to help the team.”
As a junior outside hitter, Ellison ranked No. 1 in Class 1A with a .560 hitting percentage and helped lead the Bears to their first-ever state semifinal appearance.
But heading into her senior year she showed her unselfishness by putting her team first and moving to another position.
Ellison is actually an outside/right side hitter but she had to step in as a middle blocker when senior Timber Lord got injured at the beginning of the season.
She showed her versatility by finishing second on the team with 173 kills, second with 116 blocks, and second with 41 aces.
“I’m definitely somebody who is able to play all around the court,” said Ellison, who plays right side for her club team.
She hit over .400 after the change in position.
“Middle to me is one of the hardest spots on the court, but I think it turned out pretty good,” she said.
At Palm Beach, she is going to be playing outside.
“I think she will do well on either pin, whether it’s the outside or the right side,” Bendel said. “She will bring a lot to the team. She has a very good ability to get to the spot to make a block. She has a cannon of a right arm and she has one very nasty serve.”
Bendel said her jump serve became an offensive weapon.
“Oh, my topspin,” she said with a smile. “That was very difficult for me to learn. I’m super excited I learned how to do it. That’s something I’ve been wanting to learn how to do since my ninth-grade year and finally Coach Jim he was like, ‘just do it,’ and it happened.”
Newberry head coach Hank Rone, who has been her club coach for three years, said that he believes the reason she is going to play at the next level is because of her enthusiasm for the game.
“You can only sign three to seven kids a year so attitude is huge, and if you’re one that doesn’t get into the huddle, if you don’t cheer your teammates on and all that stuff, then they just sign you off,” Rone said. “She’s just been a great supporter of her teammates. She’s one of those who cheers louder when a teammate does something than when she does something.”
Ellison, who plans to be a surgeon, has toured ‘a bunch of different schools and many different offers’ but she knew when she went to Palm Beach that she had found her new home.
“I just knew that was the right choice after talking to the girls, talking to the coaches, seeing the area, it just felt right,” she said. “I think God led me in the right direction there.”