Russell and teammates hope 2019 brings a conference title and play off run


Hannah Briley and Christina Laster

Sophomore volleyball player Natalie Russell has been varsity captain since her freshman year, proving that age does not define leadership.

Russell took the opportunity to step up and take charge of teammates much older than her.

“Being a leader to upperclassmen definitely presented a challenge at first,” Russell said. “It’s human-nature to tend to think that age is a deciding factor for leadership; however, in this case, it’s not. When on the court, it comes down to who’s positive, knows a lot about the game and is competitive in the right ways.”

Russell’s momentous qualities impressed varsity coach Brittani Bryant.
“Natalie showed tremendous leadership immediately. She was one of the younger players that really made me feel that starting then throughout her years she would continue to be the leader that we need,” Bryant said.

Russell finished the 2018 season with 43 aces, bringing her ace percentage to 15.9 percent. She ranked first on her team in assists with 467 and averaged 10.2 assists per set.

Russell’s work ethic doesn’t stop at team practice.

“Outside of school and club volleyball, I train on my own about one to two times per week. Usually, this would just be me going to get in some setting reps before an important match,” Russell said.

Bryant saw that Russell had capability and drive on the court.

“I think that she can handle anything that I give her, so it’s kind of hard to say how I push her because she pushes herself,” Bryant said.

Sophomore teammate Taniyah Chaney also sees Russell’s dedication.

“She’s improved a lot. Her confidence level has definitely increased. I think she’s grown as an overall teammate,” Chaney said.

Russell believes that focusing on teamwork will take her team further in 2019.

“To make it to states in future seasons, the biggest thing we need to work on is playing together as a team. We tend to fall apart in times of adversity and turn to each other with negativity,” Russell said. “Volleyball is just as much mental as it is physical. Positivity and picking each other up is key.”

Russell also reflects on the love she has for the sport.

“The sport of volleyball has impacted me more than anything else in my life,” Russell said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the sport.”