After a record-breaking junior season, an ACL injury derailed the much-anticipated senior campaign of East Surry’s Bryce Smith. And while an injury is never something to celebrate, it could be one of the biggest things to ever happen to Surry Community College’s volleyball program.
Smith, who drew attention from college scouts across the nation after an impressive showing in the Under Armour Phenom Showcase in Nebraska last year, signed her letter of intent Friday to play volleyball at Surry Community College in 2017. And while the injury was definitely a blessing in disguise for the Knights’ volleyball program, SCC head coach Jan Marion-Kiser believes it will be mutually beneficially for Smith, who just happens to be her niece.
“Absolutely she would have been able to go to a bigger school without her injury. She does have schools talking to her. But I think her mentality is she feels comfortable being at Surry because she will have to get back into this slowly. She was just released to start playing again this past week,” Marion-Kiser said. “She is going to have to really get back into it slowly and she will have to wear a knee brace, which she hates, but I’ve never seen a kid so committed to getting herself back to where she has before, and I feel like she will come back stronger. There were tons of schools emailing her and calling her. She has options and some really good options, so we are extremely fortunate she made the choice she made.”
If Smith returns anywhere near the caliber of player she was at East Surry, the Knights will be getting a superstar. During her junior season in Pilot Mountain, Smith set the school record for digs in a game with 40 in a contest against East Wilkes. She tallied 36 more in a clash with Mount Airy. Both totals helped her break the Cardinals’ school-record for most digs in a season with a whopping 575. She would have shattered several more school records if she could have played her senior season, Marion-Kiser said.
“I’m very lucky to get this caliber of player. She is phenomenal in what she does on the court,” Marion-Kiser said. “She’s a top-notch player and such a competitor. She can do it all. She can set and pass, she’s just not a big hitter. But we have gained one of the best defensive players we have ever had. She is only 5-3, but she’s quick and she hits the floor. I have a quote that every ball is playable. I tell my girls all the time you just have to make it where you are able to play the ball. And Bryce is that quote. She believes every ball she can get up and make a play on. I feel like with what we have coming back and adding her in with this group of girls, this will be a fun season.”
At the Libero position, Smith possesses all the physical tools to excel on the court at the collegiate level. But as impressive as her game is on the hardwood, Marion-Kiser was equally taken aback with how the East Surry senior has handled herself off the court after her season-ending injury.
“She is the type of person that a coach wants. She is a general when she is on the floor. She just commands everybody to be playing at their highest level. She will be the first to be there to tell you what a great job you did, or if you mess up to tell you to keep your head up and keep pushing,” Marion-Kiser said.
“But this year I’ve noticed it more watching her not be able to play, that she has such a maturity in the way she looks at a game. It was really hard for her because her little sister, Morgan Smith, was a freshman at East Surry and took her spot on the floor. What I love about Bryce is how she didn’t allow that injury to sideline her, she took it as a challenge to teach Morgan the game as she knows it and to push her to excel at that position. Morgan did a great job as a freshman and I think did Bryce the justice that position deserves. Most kids you see have an injury like that feel like they are not a part of team because they are not playing. Bryce never had that attitude. She was a huge presence on that court with them because of where she was on the sideline and helping younger players and taking Morgan under her wing and making her a mentally tough player. Surry is really lucky to have her on the floor.”
Attending Surry Community College will allow Smith to get some classes out of the way since she’s undecided on a major, while getting back into the groove on the volleyball court. Smith said she is glad to get back on the court and she’s particularly intrigued by the level of talent returning to Dobson in 2017.
“I am really excited because I know most of the girls that are on the team,” Smith said. “We go watch the team play a lot and I think we will have really good chemistry and play well together.”
CUTLINE: East Surry senior Bryce Smith signs a letter-of-intent to play volleyball at Surry Community College on Friday. Pictured are front row, from left: Connie Smith, Bryce Smith and Keith Smith. Back row: East Surry volleyball coach Caleb Gilley, Surry Community College volleyball coach Jan Marion-Kiser, Morgan Smith, Preston Smith, East Surry Principal Lorrie Sawyers.