By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter
Courtney Oliver played volleyball for five years at West End High, including the last four on the varsity.
Unlike many players, however, she never played club volleyball. A standout softball player, Oliver played travel softball instead.
But when it came time to make a decision about what to play in college, Oliver chose volleyball. The Lady Patriot senior made it official Nov. 25 when she signed with Snead State Community College.
“I like volleyball a lot bet-er than softball, I guess just because I’ve been in softball my whole life and it’s kind of ran down a little bit,” said the 5-foot-11 Oliver, who also plays for the West End girls basketball team.
Oliver received recruiting emails and letters from college softball coaches, but none of them offered her a scholarship.
Snead State volleyball coach Dee Ayres, who was a standout volleyball player for Southside High, saw Oliver’s skills on the volleyball court and wanted her to be a part of the Parson program.
Oliver played the last three years for Audra Noo-jin, who used Oliver as a middle blocker and on de-fense. Middle blocker is Oliver’s favorite position.
“I like right-side a lot too, but middle is my first priority,” Oliver said. “Middle is kind of tricky, because you have to go in a really fast pace. There’s never a chance where you get to catch your breath.”
Oliver collected 80 aces, 80 blocks, 400 kills and 742 digs during her senior season. Her performance and leadership helped the Patriots reach the Class 2A Elite Eight state tournament for the third year in a row. West End lost in the 2A semifinals in 2012 and 2013.
“That’s pretty exciting,” Oliver said of the state tournament berths.
Oliver treasures the me-mories of her sophomore season in 2011, when West End’s run to the state tournament went through Walnut Grove.
“We hosted everything for volleyball – area, regional, sub-regionals,” she said. “It was a blast, and we had so many people from the school and the community come and support us. It was awesome.”
Ayres said Oliver will bring a lot to the Parsons academically and athletically.
“We plan to use Courtney as a middle hitter, She is capable of hitting several different sets, which will work well in our offense. She will be a strong defender at the net for us.”
Noojin expects Oliver to contribute to Snead State “right out of the gate.”
“This is the first year Courtney’s played all the way around, and she helped us tremendously that way too,” Noojin said. “Dee and I had talked about it. I said if I had enough players to choose from, Courtney would have been my right-side player, because she’s great hitting behind the setter. She has wonderful hands, she’s just smart and she’s a leading blocker, so that’s why I couldn’t take her out of my middle, but in a college situation you can. To have that leading blocker as a right-side where the outside would be hitting against her would be a great place to have her.”
Oliver hopes to step in and play right away for the Parsons.
“I would love to go to a four-year college after Snead,” Oliver said. “I just wanted to hit a two-year college so I could get my basics out of the way and then go to a four-year, hopefully JSU.”