The raw power Carroll County junior Eustacia Smith hits the ball with at the net makes her a feared presence for Cavalier opponents. It’s also a big reason why she was unanimously selected as the Conference 24 Player of the Year.
With the Virginia High School League’s recent realignment and shift to conferences, the River Ridge District no longer votes on all-district teams. In All-Conference 24 voting, each volleyball coach was only able to nominate four players, and coaches could not vote for their own players. Smith unanimously was voted Conference Player of the Year by opposing coaches, with Carroll County head coach Cindy Edwards casting her ballot for Salem’s Barrett Kemp since she was not allowed to vote for Smith.
Conference opponents certainly liked what they saw from Smith, a junior outside hitter. This season, she led Carroll County in kills with 298 and aces with 69. She also finished third on the team in serving points (310) and digs (191) and finished fourth in blocks with 14. Smith also helped lead the Cavaliers to the Conference 24 Championship game and a win over Jefferson Forest in the Conference semifinals as the volleyball team became the first program in school history to reach the Group 4A North tournament.
“I just think it was the number of kills and the power she brings when she hits,” Edwards said of why she thought Smith was a unanimous pick for Player of the Year. “She hit it 80 percent, so the consistency is coming. She is still inconsistent at times, but her jump serve added another dimension. I just think she works really hard, loves the game and she brings a lot of energy to it when she is out there playing.”
Smith was Carroll County’s lone All-Region 4A North selection as she was tabbed for second-team all-region honors.
Smith was joined on the All-Conference 24 volleyball team by teammate Jessica Sheek. A senior outside hitter, Sheek set a new school record for serving points with 435. She also finished second on the team in kills (217) and aces (53) and was tied with Smith for fourth in blocks (14). Sheek also was tabbed for All-Region Honorable Mention accolades.
“I thought Jessica had a really good year also. She broke Britney Green’s school record for serving points,” Edwards said. “We played more games than that year, but it shows we were putting it down when she was serving. She also wound up with 217 kills on the year, so she gave us quite a bit of offense.”
Earning second-team all-conference honors for Carroll County were Cheyenne Strickland and Grace Lindsey.
A junior outside hitter and setter, Strickland was among the team’s leaders in every category. She showed her versatility by finishing second on the team in digs (225) and assists (266) while her 150 kills were third-best for Carroll County. Strickland was also third on the team in aces (33), fourth in serving percentage (.928) and fifth in serving points (282).
“Cheyenne has worked really hard and improved a lot. Watching her when we went to Appalachian State, we felt like she gave us something on right side as a hitter as well as a setter,” Edwards said. “I thought she did a really good job and she had not hit until this year. All around, Chey was very vital in her play this year.”
A senior Libero, Lindsey put up the second-highest total in school history for digs in a season with 385. Her serving percentage of .950 was second-highest on the team and her 309 serving points were the fourth-highest for Carroll this season.
“Her passing percentage was almost 68 percent and she finished second behind Autumn Fink for the school record for most digs in a season,” Edwards said. “I thought Gracie did a really good job for us at Libero.”
Eustacia Smith (Carroll County), Barrett Kemp (Salem), Alyssa Morris (E.C. Glass), Jessica Sheek (CC), Carleigh Studtman (Sal.), Shelby Frost (Jefferson Forest), Madison Haynes (Bassett), Erin Hamric (Pulaski County).
Jordan Hayes (Sal.), Cheyenne Strickland (CC), Jewel Hurt (William Fleming), Taylor Mabry (Bas.), Grace Lindsey (CC), Katherine Danstrom (Sal.), Jessica Pascadlo (JF), Kayla Goumas (JF).
Player of the Year – Eustacia Smith, Carroll County
Coach of the Year – Elizabeth Denton, Salem