Kayleigh Crow is a friendly, polite, and really lovely girl to talk to. She speaks well, has interesting thoughts and a charming mind about him. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Crow reveals what sparks his passion for volleyball.
“I love to hit things,” she said with a smile.
Ouch! And what does that mean exactly?
“It’s just the adrenaline,” she said. “Why do soccer players like to tackle people? I have no idea, but I guess it has something to do with it. It’s just super nice. It is very satisfying.
That being the case, Crow is in a comfortable position as an opposing hitter for the Hopewell Valley Central High varsity team. This is primarily a defensive role, in which she tries to stop the opposing outside hitter from slamming a goal for a point, which she does by blocking her attempts to score.
In doing so, she hits the ball. Hard.
Needless to say, it’s a rush.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s so much fun. When he hits your hand, it’s the most satisfying thing there is. And then everyone’s like ‘Wooooh!'”
Looks like Crow was made for volleyball, and volleyball was made for Crow. She doesn’t just like it, she’s good at it.
“She brings awareness and knowledge to volleyball,” said coach Dan Williams. “She is a hard worker, she never gives up on a piece. She is team oriented and helps everyone with a positive attitude. He’s just a great person to have on the team.
Although Hopewell starts 7-12, Crow has eight aces, seven kills, four blocks and 25 digs.
“The outside hitter is usually one of the strongest hitters on a team, so she’s there to be a force at the net,” said Williams. “She also makes herself available in case a passer wants to put her in place, she also becomes an offensive player. So it’s just a matter of making sure that she is constantly up to date with what’s going on on the ground.
Crow’s impact has led to an academic record of single-season wins since the sport started in 2012. The addition of a college program three years ago has helped add incoming players with experience. .
“We started our ninth grade program five years ago and it is paying off,” said Williams. “The middle school coaches do a great job of keeping their interest alive, so as they progress through the program it’s something they really want to do. They stick to it and succeed. It was built slowly but steadily.
Other starters on this year’s squad are setter Corrinna Weyrich, center blockers Jacquelene Wulf and Faith Dunham, outside hitters Haewon Han and Sofie Ragins, and first Libero rookie Michaela Kwak.
“Michaela has been playing since she was in sixth grade and she’s very dedicated,” Crow said. “We also have a few sophomores, where in the past we never had young players because they didn’t have the skills. Now that we have underclassmen ready to step up, not only does this put pressure on the upperclassmen, but we are now like a real team and we are all building on each other. We have stronger players and they can also grow with college.
Crow is one of the team leaders along with Captain Anastasia Sotos. Crow’s versatility also allows her to play all around the back row, meaning she can replace a player when defense is needed at the back. This ability comes from playing libero, a back line defender, for the JV team.
With all of this change, Kayleigh has learned that volleyball isn’t what she originally thought it was when she was five years old.
“At summer camp we played a game called Newcome, and I actually thought volleyball was Newcome for a few years,” Crow said. “It’s a game where you literally throw the ball over the net and try not to drop it. It’s like a little kid’s game and I was like ‘I love volleyball!’ because I thought that was volleyball.
In fifth grade, she came to understand the opposite.
“I just realized it was totally different,” Crow said. “Looking back as someone who’s under five, you can probably say, ‘Maybe that wasn’t the funniest thing there was. “I don’t even know if it was a real game. Maybe it was a game my side invented because no one else has ever heard of it.
Her real foray into volleyball began in first grade, when she decided to try the sport with several of her friends who had never played before. Kayleigh’s first season was, to say the least, an adventure.
“It was very confusing,” she said. “We have a spin where you start in your place and after the ball goes over the net you have to cross each other, get into your position. I didn’t even know there were positions, so I didn’t really understand the whole concept of positions.
It was also a little scary to face experienced players.
“I was intimidated by the older girls who were in college because they could all punch really hard and straight,” Crow said. “They could all pass really well, they could receive serves, which intimidated me a lot because it’s a bullet going really fast towards you, and you’re right there, just you and the bullet. I was really scared of that. A lot of people had concussions in the first week and still have it. “
She endured, however, thanks to the support of her 9th-grade freshman team mates, as well as coaches. After playing JV in second year,
Crow moved to college last year and began to understand the nuances of his position.
“When I started calling in the face in college I had to adjust my hitting at the net because my coach always had to tell me to raise my arm to hit,” she said. “I always hit him straight as a line workout because I used to hit from the back row so it was a bit difficult to make the adjustment.
Once the technical correction was made, Crow began to work on the mental aspect.
“The anticipation is a lot of it, learning to read hitters,” she said. “When you block; you have to know physics and geometry. Now, I don’t mean, “Oh, you have to study this stuff”, to do that. But you know, when the batter is tilted one way, you have to go out a little bit to block the other way and then you can go down the block. The same with the service receives. When a waiter is turned a certain way, unless he’s got crazy serve, you can learn his patterns. You have to learn each server and read each server. It’s a lot of mental stuff.
Crow is equipped for this. His cumulative grade point average is 96.8 out of 100; she is secretary of the HVCHS Future Business Leaders of America; and she started what she calls a “steminist” club to help girls get interested in careers such as engineering, science, technology and math. Over 30 girls signed up in the first year.
Crow is already interested in such a career, as she seeks to study engineering and hopes to attend Washington University in St. Louis or Johns Hopkins.
“Engineering is kind of a family thing,” she said. “Plus, I like math and science.
Not to mention that there is no middle finger to hit things.