Gallery by Karen Akers
Shady Spring volleyball standout, Peydon Smith hoped a day like Wednesday would come for her, but she had her doubts.
Wednesday afternoon, Smith’s dreams of playing the sport she loves in college became a reality when she signed to play volleyball at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
“Today has been so exciting. It was a little nerve-racking too because it is determining your future. I really think I will be the most successful at West Virginia Wesleyan because of the teachers and the coaches, they are wonderful” Smith said. “I really wanted to go to college and play volleyball. So, I think it will be the best option for me.”
“When I took this job, I took it because I wanted to see these girls reach their full potential. It is not about wins and losses necessarily to me,” Shady Spring head volleyball coach Kelly Williams said. “When you have an opportunity to help someone with their future and see their dream come true, that means more than any win that I could possibly have.”
As an incoming freshman, college volleyball was a dream, but at first, Smith was unsure if she would even make the team at Shady Spring.
“I was very, very nervous when I was a freshman, that is for sure. I really didn’t think I would make the team,” Smith admitted. “When I got in there, all of the girls were very supportive. It really wasn’t that bad after the first day of tryouts. Once we got into the swing of things it felt really good.”
Making the team was just the first step for Smith. Getting on the varsity floor took some time and a lot of work.
“I definitely made a lot of mistakes. I am really thankful for Kelly and (assistant coach) Sharon (Pinardo) because I don’t think I would be the player that I am today without them,” Smith said. “They know how to teach you and they really work with you. They don’t just assume that you can do it, they make sure that you know how to do it. I think that is why I have become such a better player and more consistent player.”
Williams was also extremely happy for Smith who she had watched develop first-hand into a solid all-around player for the Tigers.
“The fact that the girls can go on to college and flourish makes it a really great honor to have coached them, Williams said. “Peydon has come up huge in the last couple of years with her serves. Her defense and her leadership skills have improved greatly. Peydon is a free spirit and she is funny. Everyone loves to see Peydon smile. She has really grown as a person and her game has grown with her.”
Smith’s prowess on the service line was on full display in last year’s state championship match. With the Tigers trailing in the first set, Smith flipped the momentum of the set with a string of aces.
“It was amazing and it was really my first year on the varsity floor,” Smith recalled. “It felt good and it was a really big win for us.”
So far this season, Smith has recorded a team-high 85 aces heading into Friday’s state tournament.
When young players were just trying to get serves over the net, Smith was working on her jump serve in grade school.
“I started learning my jump serve around fourth grade, so I think that definitely helped contribute to why that is my serve today,” Smith said. “I used to have a top spin, but it wasn’t consistent. I changed it to a float, which is what I have now. I think that is more effective because it just moves and you never know where it is going to go.”
Hard work and dedication made Smith one of the top threats in the state when she steps to the serving line.
“My sophomore year is when I started getting confident in my serve because it started getting more consistent. Obviously I hit it out some, but I stopped hitting it in the net as much,” Smith said. “You have to focus on the components and block out all the rest to make sure you get the serve over the net.”
Smith’s dynamic serving has been a key factor in leading Shady Spring back to the state volleyball tournament where the Tigers hope to repeat as Class AA state champions.
No. 1 seed Shady Spring opens state tournament play Friday against No. 8 seed Frankfort.