Athlete of the Week: Henry’s confidence continues to rise after solid game for Rams

Daniella Henry

STRASBURG – If Strasburg High School sophomore Daniella Henry lacked any self-confidence at the outset of the 2016 volleyball season, she might have quelled those concerns last week.

In the Rams’ home match against Bull Run District/Conference 35 foe Madison County last Wednesday evening, the 6-foot-2 Henry was a force at the net, finishing with four kills and a career-high nine blocks in Strasburg’s 3-1 victory.

Rams head coach Suzanne Mathias said Monday afternoon that the match was the best Henry has played in her brief varsity volleyball career.

“She flat-out worked that game as far as covering the net and being big at the net,” Mathias said.

It was a breakout performance for Henry, who just two years ago missed the cut for the Rams’ junior varsity program as an eighth-grader. She notched an early kill in the first set against the Mountaineers, then helped Strasburg seal the 1-0 match lead with another kill and a block on back-to-back points late in the game. In the fourth set, with the Rams seeking to clinch the victory, Henry’s kill and two blocks helped push an 18-12 Strasburg lead into a 22-12 advantage.

“I felt like my confidence was a lot higher than has been earlier this season,” Henry said. “Being able to have nine blocks was really big. It was just like a high number in general, so being able to get nine blocks and four kills just really boosted my confidence. It was a really fun game.”

Mathias said Henry’s performance – and her potential for similar output in future matches – is important for the Rams in more than one aspect. Certainly Henry’s presence at the net can pose a challenge to opposing hitters, but Mathias said the resulting boost in confidence from Henry’s performance rubs off on the other young players on Strasburg’s roster.

But that’s not to say Henry entered her first full season at the varsity level apprehensive about how well she would cope at that level. She got that introductory phase out of the way last season when she was called up to the Rams’ varsity squad with about a month left in the season.

“That was just a really big step from not being on JV to being on JV then quickly being on varsity,” Henry said. “Varsity’s a lot faster, so I needed to build up confidence and learn to use my height to my advantage with blocking and jumping as high as I can and hitting as hard as I can.”

Mathias said getting Henry to take full advantage of her height was a work in progress last season.

“Being 6-foot tall, it’s hard to get them to realize you’ve still gotta jump and you’ve still gotta put forth effort,” Mathias said. “She’s done a good job at realizing that. Plus she’s been working out with (Strasburg assistant track and field coach Tommy Simmons) with track and stuff, lifting and doing agility stuff, and that’s really helped her. I think that part too has helped her with confidence.”

Henry did still have a hurdle to overcome entering her sophomore season, as an ankle sprain she suffered during a preseason match at the Handley Jamboree kept her sidelined for Strasburg’s first four regular season matches. She returned against Stonewall Jackson on Sept. 6 and had to claw her way back into a starting role after holding that position in the preseason.

“We have a lot of young girls that are really tall and they were starting a lot. They were getting better and I just needed to push myself in practice to show (Mathias) that I’m able to be a starting player and play for most of the time,” said Henry, who had 10 kills and three blocks in a loss to Clarke County on Tuesday.

“I would push myself during practice and hit as hard as I can and work on hitting against a wall or work on my serves and my blocking. Being able to start was a huge motivation for me.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com