Athlete of the Week: Versatile Smith leading the Hawks in many ways on the court

Alana Smith Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Alana Smith, a junior, has been on Skyline High School’s varsity volleyball team since her freshman season, making her one of the veterans for the Hawks in 2017. Her teammates rewarded her playing experience by voting her one of two team captains before the start of the season.

There’s pressure that comes with such a title. If the Hawks are struggling in a certain area, Smith said on Tuesday, she feels the need to personally fix the problem at hand. But her teammate’s confidence in her has also given rise to her own self-assuredness as well.

“It was really important to me because … I’ve seen a lot of the different leaders going throughout the couple years I’ve been on there,” Smith said Tuesday afternoon. “I just wanted to be able show that I could do what they did too.”

Smith has delivered for the Hawks so far. As the regular season enters the final stretch, the junior remains one of Skyline’s individual leaders in kills, aces and digs.

In a pair of matches last week, Smith – The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for Oct. 2-8, had a combined 16 kills and 24 digs as Skyline split contests against Brentsville and William Monroe.

“She’s just versatile,” Hawks head coach Erika Berry said. “She plays all around and she leads in most of what she does. So as a passer we really count on her out there, as a hitter when she’s on, she’s on and we like to feed her the ball. She’s just a go-getter.”

Smith, who said that her kill total in last week’s matches ranked on the higher end of her typical output, helped fuel a 3-0 win over William Monroe last Thursday. The victory snapped a six-match losing streak for the Hawks, who had opened the season 6-2 in one of their best starts in program history.

Smith credited the Hawks’ increased energy level for helping Skyline snap its skid against the Green Dragons, adding that her own enthusiasm aided one of her better attacking performances of the season.

“I remember just feeling like my adrenaline was up, I’m not gonna lie,” she said. “I just felt like I was getting up a lot higher.”

Smith counts her hitting as one of the most improved aspects of her game since she joined the Hawks as a freshman two years ago, and Berry said Smith has learned to “tone down” her shots when needed to better find holes in opposing defenses. But that’s hardly the limit to Smith’s skill set.

Berry considers Smith to be one of the most consistent servers on the Hawks’ roster, as well as one of the team’s better passers.

“We always preach to the girls if we can’t pass then we definitely can’t play volleyball,” Berry said. “Serving and passing is what it comes down to because the passing leads to our offense, so we work on passing all the time in practice. And if she’s back there then we know that our chances of getting the direct pass leading to that set will give us a good chance at getting a kill.”

Berry added that Smith has a “mindset that she always wants to be better.”

“It’s nice that she’s confident,” Berry said.

“I know that whatever she is asked to do she’s gonna make sure she does it with all of her heart. She’s a great athlete, she’s quick on her feet and as long as she stays mentally focused she does awesome.”

Skyline (7-9, 1-3 Northwestern District), which fell to Manassas Park, 3-1, on Tuesday night, has four matches left against Class 3 district competition before the start of the playoffs. The Hawks are back in action at home against Culpeper County on Thursday.