Knights place four on All-Region X Volleyball team

From left to right: Anika Thomas, Ashley Johnson, Cheyenne Kota and Jessi Marion

After finishing third in Region X with a 19-9 record, Surry Community College’s volleyball team has been rewarded with four selections to the All-Region X team.

The Knights nominated four players to the prestigious team and all four were honored, led by first-team selection Jessi Marion. Marion was joined by Surry’s Cheyenne Kota, Ashley Johnson and Anika Thomas, all second-team all-region picks.

“All four girls we nominated made first or second team and that is huge for our program,” said Surry head coach Jan Marion-Kiser.

A sophomore from East Surry, Marion was the Knights’ lone first-team all-region choice. A dominant middle hitter, the 5-11 Marion led SCC with her drive to win and make everybody around her better.

“I’ve been coaching her since the sixth grade and I thought making first-team all-region was a good way for her to close her career out at Surry,” Marion-Kiser said. “She was a leader all season long. She’s one of those who want to win no matter what. She works so hard. People may think she seems a little tough or abrasive, but she is one of the hardest workers on the floor. She wants to win at all costs and she wants to motivate everybody to be better.”

Marion wants to major in Occupational Therapy or Psychology, and right now several schools with those majors are interested in her. She has already received invites to play at the next level, and her coach says she is more than ready.

“She is highly competitive and she needs two more years of playing. She’s super smart in the classroom, just the definition of student athlete,” Marion-Kiser said. “She works as hard in the classroom as she does on the court. It made me feel good the coaches in our region recognized her as one of the leaders on our team.”

Like Marion, Kota has also played under Marion-Kiser’s tutelage most of her volleyball career. Also a sophomore from East Surry, Kota is a 5-11 right side hitter with the skills to move on to a four-year college or university.

“She is a Surry Community College Student Ambassador and she’s super smart in classroom. Like Jessi, she has some opportunities coming her way as far as playing at next level,” Marion-Kiser said. “She was injured at the beginning of the season last year and she finally came around about midway through season. She came in this year and earned that right side spot. She is a lefty, and a lefty at the right side is what every coach wants. She is one of most coachable kids to play for me. She has a great attitude and she’s a leader on and off court. She’s the first one at practice when girls are goofing off and not doing their best, she and Jessi would both let them know it was time to do the work. She wants to be a physician’s assistant and she has some opportunities coming her way.”

A right-side hitter from Starmount High School, Ashley Johnson made the most of her one year for the Knights. Earning second-team all-region honors as a freshman, Johnson has enough credits to graduate from the school, and hopefully also move on to a four-year college next season.

“She is a freshman who came in and played like she was a true leader from the get go. She is very quiet, but she’s one of those kids you tell her one time and she will fix it or go do whatever you ask. That is what I love about all these girls,” Marion-Kiser said. “Ashley, while she is very quiet and reserved, she is a very smart volleyball player. She knows when to go up and swing and when to place it in a spot where the defense is not going to pick It up.”

Marion, Kota and Johnson all have GPAs of 3.5 or better and Marion-Kiser feels all will get the chance to excel on and off the court after Surry.

“Ashley has schools looking at her too, and wherever she goes, the coach will be very lucky to have her,” Marion-Kiser said. “She is an asset to have on the court because she can play all the way around, has an amazing serve, is good on defense, and super smart on offense.”

Unlike the other three, Thomas will be back at Surry next year. Marion-Kiser couldn’t be more excited to have the versatile second-team all-region player from Southwestern Randolph back in Dobson. Beginning the season as an outside hitter, Thomas finished the year as a libero for the Knights. It was a role in which she flourished.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better libero. I think the coaches early on saw what a threat she was as an outside hitter. She is just a firecracker, very tall and thin and gets off the ground really good. She has a good vertical and sets a good block, but after about four games we had to move some people around,” Marion-Kiser said. “She reads the hitters really well, so on defense it was a very easy transition to move her to libero. I know she loves being a hitter, but so proud of how she approached it and took on the role and leadership of a libero on the court.”

Although Johnson is quiet and reserved on the court, the libero jersey gave her a different personality on the court.

“She was vocal and did a very good job in a leadership role. That is tough for a freshman to come in and be that libero and know you are supposed to be the best defensive player on court,” she said.

Thomas more than likely will move back to outside hitter next year. But for now, Thomas’ coach couldn’t be more proud of the way she handled her freshman season.

“She owns that spot and I am so proud of her for the fact that she never came to me and said, ‘Coach, I am not a libero.’ She said whatever you want me to do, I will do it,” Marion-Kiser said. “That tells me she will give me 110 percent. I’m very fortunate she will be back next year and will move back to outside hitter.”

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