Growing up in Wimberley, sophomore Jacey Smith developed a passion for volleyball through a camp at Wimberley High School, many years before playing for the team.
“Wimberley is known for volleyball, at least we used to be, so seeing those girls win state and go to state all the time is what I grew up wanting to do,” Smith said. “Ever since then it’s always been my favorite sport.”
The high school’s volleyball program has attended many state tournaments and won several state titles in years past, and during her years as a student, Smith helped carry her squad deep into post season as well as finding success in competition at the club level.
When she came to Abilene in the fall of 2015, Smith was unsure of what to expect, and when head coach Jason Bibler moved her to be an outside hitter, Smith was forced to work outside of her comfort zone.
“We have asked a lot of the girls to embrace a different role than last year or maybe than what they’re used to,” Coach Bibler said. “She is definitely in a different role, but she has really embraced it.”
Before changing positions, Smith had played middle blocker for most of her volleyball career. Though she is more comfortable as an outside hitter now with a year of experience under her belt, the transitions of becoming a collegiate athlete and a student, was a challenge that she had to overcome.
“For me I had to work way, way harder in practice just to learn that new position,” Smith said. “It’s been fun, but at the same time looking back on it, it was crazy.”
With so much change all at once, Smith said it was difficult to know what to expect, but was soon following in the footsteps of senior Jennifer Loerch, who ended last season ranked third in the Southland with 3.50 kills per set for the season and ended her successful college career with an eighth all-time at ACU with 1,369 career kills.
“They are definitely big, big shoes to fill,” Smith said. “But at the same time, Jenny had a lot of responsibility and this year we have other people who can share that responsibility so I don’t feel as big of pressure as I think she had.”
Now leading the team in kills this season so far and ranked seventh in the league with 2.94 kills per set, Smith is using her position as outside hitter to lead the team on the court. Bibler said that Smith is the kind of player that is willing to do whatever needs to be done to help out her teammates, and that she continues improve her own game.
“I think that limiting my errors and a lot more is what we can do and what I can do for the team,” Smith said. “We’re still working really hard, and we still have a lot of things we want to do and want to accomplish.”
Smith said that there is still a lot ahead for the volleyball team as they enter into conference play, and is hoping to contribute as much as she can to help the team thrive. Players who are new to the team have taken note of Smith’s dedicated attitude and drive early on in the season, and look to her as one of the older players to follow.
“She does a good job with binding our team together,” freshman middle blocker Marybeth Sandercox said. “She’s always a source of encouragement.”
Off the court, Smith is involved in Young Life and is studying kinesiology and recreation and sports management.
“Leading Young Life instead of being a student in Young Life is way, way different but it’s fun to go out and have fun with those kids and get to know them,” Smith said.
Being involved in an organization like Young Life, Smith said has impacted her positively as an individual off of the court. She said it has helped her develop her leadership skills by talking to people, giving to others and building those relationships, as well as helped shape her goals and plans for beyond colleg.
In the future, Smith plans on using her degree to possibly continue working with students, particularly athletes, and is looking into a career working with college athletics, sports camps, or professional sports teams. When asked about how she decided on a path such as that, Smith said that she can’t imagine herself doing anything else.
“Sports has been my life for as long as I can remember so coming in trying to pick a major, that’s the only thing I really saw myself doing,” said Smith.
Smith and the rest of the women’s volleyball team began conference play Thursday against Texas A&M- Corpus Christi, who is the defending league champions and play Incarnate Word Saturday in San Antonio.