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Crawford looks back on journey as Lady Panther

Griff Servati,
The Van Alstyne Leader
VAHS Senior Volleyball player Janessa Crawford.

Tonight will be the last time that five senior Lady Panther volleyball players will play a home game.

Janessa Crawford is one of those players who has been a vital fixture of the team's success, especially last year as they competed for a state championship.

The senior athlete shared some age-old wisdom when looking at her four years at VAHS.

"As a freshman, I was ready to be a senior, and now I want to be a freshman again,“ Crawford said, "but I have enjoyed all the ups and downs that come with being a student-athlete."

The teen started playing volleyball in fourth grade. Only after several of her friends switched from cheer to play volleyball did she decide to "give it a shot."

That decision started a nine-year journey that leads to completion in the coming weeks, and one of the final legs of that journey is the senior night recognition tonight.

When Crawford talks about the downs that come with being an athlete, injury and rehab are part of her story.

At the beginning of her junior year, she sprained her ankle at an early season tournament. She would miss over half of the season and spend 15 weeks "six days a week at 7 a.m." rehabbing to get back on the court.

Looking back on that time, she said, "I wouldn't trade that experience for anything because not only did it teach me to be tough mentally, it also gave me some of the greatest friends and role models in my life along with so many memories."

That season started at a low point and finished strong as the Lady Panthers played in the final game of the season, the state championship game. The opportunity to play on the big stage will never diminish for Crawford.

"I have never played in front of so many people and getting to have that experience was amazing,“ she said.

Through the highs and lows, Crawford said that her parents, Jonathan and Poppy, have been there for her. "They are my biggest supporters, and they are there to pick me up if I had a bad game and they are there to encourage me. They haven't missed a game, and they are always the first to congratulate me after the game."

During that rehab time, a teacher had the most influence in her life, teaching life lessons through the recovery process. It was Van Alstyne High School Athletic Trainer Dustin Emery.

"When I wanted to give up, he encouraged me to keep pushing through no matter how hard it was,“ Crawford said. ”He knew what the future held, while all I knew was what was in the present. Emery has taught me to focus on the progressions and small things in life, rather than the big picture all at once."

The teen knows that the next step will include college and studying mathematics with a minor in secondary education. The school location is not yet determined, as she is hoping that her time playing volleyball isn't finished.

Crawford knows that the lessons learned at Van Alstyne High School in and out of the classroom will carry her into the next phase of her journey.

"I am thankful for my journey as a Lady Panther and all who have taught me how to handle challenges and that I will carry with me off the court and outside of high school."

Volleyball player Janessa Crawford will play tonight in her last home game at Van Alstyne High School.