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Sullivan thankful to be on the volleyball court this season

Griff Servati,
The Van Alstyne Leader
Sydney Sullivan is the senior back row specialist for the Lady Panthers.

For senior athletes like Sydney Sullivan, being able to play “is a huge deal."

After watching members of the class of 2020 miss out on their spring sports seasons, (she also missed the tennis and softball seasons) due to the coronavirus pandemic, the thought of Sullivan missing her senior season of volleyball loomed.

"It was for sure a little scary in the beginning because we didn't know if we would have a season,“ she said, ”but now I try my best to make the most of every moment. I have been looking forward to my senior year since I was a little 6year-old girl playing volleyball."

After being part of the best volleyball team in Van Alstyne High School history last year, it will be hard to replace memories of playing in the state championship game.

"Only four teams each year from the whole state of Texas can say that they achieved that honor, and only two of them can say they made it to the championship and we were one of those teams,“ she said.

For many, the destination is the dream. However, another memory stands out almost as equally for Sullivan: the Ponder game in a small school gym that was standing-room only and came down to a fifth set.

"The gym was slammed-packed with fans, and the game couldn't have been any closer. It was also the best game of my career thus far,“ she recalled.

For Sullivan, volleyball season is the start of a jam-packed year of being a student-athlete without an off season.

To compete throughout the school year, the teen has gladly made sacrifices to excel on and off the court.

"I have to juggle volleyball, softball, tennis, athletic training and my schoolwork,“ she said. ”I do this by not having a social life, but ... always making sure my priorities are straight. I can't even play my sports if my grades aren't there, so obviously, that is of utmost importance."

Several teachers have impacted Sullivan’s life. “The greatest of these is Coach Ingram,” she said.

Kess Ingram is the Van Alstyne ISD girls athletic coordinator and a teacher at the high school.

“She is constantly there for me if I need someone, and she reminds me that I am loved often,” Sullivan said of Ingram. “She also has a very calming presence about her, which I need a lot of times. She never pressures me into telling her what's wrong with me, but she lets me know in subtle ways that she's here for me."

Sullivan began playing tennis during seventh grade.

"My coaches said tennis tryouts were going to be happening the following Monday, so that night I went home and told my dad I wanted to try and play tennis. That weekend, we went out to some courts and I started to get the hang of the game. I made the team and have been playing ever since".

Sullivan’s parents, Debbie and Lance, have supported her at every turn, allowing her to try new things along the way.

"My parents have been very encouraging throughout my whole athletic career. They support me no matter what I do, and they will do anything in their power to make sure I perform at my highest possible potential,“ the teen said.

Meanwhile, her grandparents “might be my biggest fans. They come to every single game of mine to support me.”

Sullivan knows that this year will have its typical struggles and adversity on the court, which will require her to be a leader as a senior.

"I am intentional when I am on the court about encouragement. It is easy for younger girls to get down after missing a ball. I do my best to let them know that everyone makes mistakes and we have to move on and do better with the next ball."

As for the other struggles that will come when playing a season during a pandemic, "I am trying to be as optimistic as I can,“ she said. ”We have a lot of adversity. We are going to have to get through together as a team."

Sydney Sullivan celebrates with teammates.