Moving back to her natural position of outside hitter paid huge dividends in 2017 for Anika Thomas and Surry Community College’s volleyball team.
One year after starting at libero due to an injury to a teammate, Thomas returned to her usual spot this season and dominated. Finishing in the top five in the entire region in four different categories, Thomas has been honored for her incredible season as the Region X Player of the Year.
At the net, the 5-11 Southwestern Randolph High School alum was a force, finishing second in Region X in kills (345) and third in kills per set (3.11). She was just as strong on the defensive end of the court, drawing on her experience as a libero to finish fourth in Region X in digs (541) and fifth in digs per set (4.87). She also had the 12th-highest hitting percentage in the region at .277.
“It means everything to me. When they told me about it, I didn’t know what to say. I played for two years and did not play my position much last year, so this is a great honor,” Thomas said. “We were trained at my high school to play all positions. Last year, being able to play libero helped a lot with passing and digging, and the hitting was just natural.”
Surry head coach Jan Marion-Kiser said the Knights were extremely lucky to be able to land a player of Thomas’ caliber two years ago. Whether she was playing out of position at libero or in her natural spot in the lineup, Thomas always took on a big leadership role for Surry.
“She has stepped up and done exactly what has been asked of her and exceeded her expectations. She will go out and give you everything she has got on the floor and that will be missed,” Marion-Kiser said. “She was a huge part of our offense and a huge part of our defense. To have a player so well rounded who is such a huge chunk of your team, she will be missed greatly. She really deserved player of the year honors because she did a little bit of everything for us. She is the definition of a volleyball player.”
After finishing the season with a 20-12 record, Surry also placed two players on the All-Region X Second Team – freshmen Lauren Charleville and Bryce Smith.
Charleville, from North Stokes High School, was the tallest player on the team at 6-0, something she more than used to her advantage up front. She turned in the second-highest total of kills on the team with 266 and 2.4 kills per set, both second only to Thomas. She also led the team in blocks by a large margin with 76 and contributed 96 digs to boot, the fifth-highest total for the Knights in 2017.
“The thing about Lauren I love is she is so long and lean and she makes herself so mobile on the court. We want middles that are agile and can move. Lauren likes to move all the time,” Marion-Kiser said. “I love the fact that she got to hit a little bit of outside in some of the rotations. We are looking at possibly making a change and moving her to outside next year because she is such a strong hitter and would give us outside what we had with Anika. As a middle hitter and blocker she did an incredible job.”
Despite missing her entire senior year due to an injury at East Surry High School, Smith was back to her old self in no time with the Knights. Her 552 digs were third in Region X and her 4.93 digs per set were the fourth-most in the league. She also was second on the team with 31 service aces. Most importantly, she was able to move into the libero spot so that Thomas could move back to outside hitter.
“Coming off that knee injury the biggest goal for her was to get back to starting to be the player she was before she had that injury. I feel like she just got better and better as the season went on,” Marion-Kiser said. “To get to 552 digs, that is some good work. She and Lauren both were proven leaders as far as freshmen.
They will be looked to as sophomores to step up and fall into the role Anika had of being a strong leader. Anika is going to be so, so missed, but with Bryce and Lauren coming back we will have a good core group of sophomores in 2018.”