By Rory Sharrock
Over the past decade, the Jonesboro Lady Cardinals volleyball squad has flown high above the competition as the premiere program in Clayton County and perhaps, the Southern Crescent.
This reign of supremacy has led to multiple region championships and as a result of their success, several former players have advanced to the collegiate level to continue to develop as student-athletes.
The latest feather to be plucked from the Lady Cardinal nest and expand her wings is setter Myza Hill, who recently signed a full scholarship to play volleyball at Albany State University beginning next fall.
"It feels nice. I'm very happy I signed. The volleyball team was very open and they accepted me plus the campus is wonderful," said Hill.
Hill, who lives and breathes volleyball, is one of those rare athletes who always had the ability, but didn't realize her unique talents until the latter part of her high school career.
On the court, it looks as if the 5-foot, 6-inch setter has been playing since she was in elementary school, however, she didn't pick up a ball until her sophomore year at Riverdale High School.
Hill's volleyball story began as a Lady Raider, but after her family moved, she enrolled at Jonesboro during the most difficult period in a student's life - senior year.
However, despite having a new set of teachers, classmates and teammates, she managed to fit in with a new program like hand in glove and became a contributing member in the team's playoff run.
"Myza came to us from Riverdale and played only one year. I want to commend her club coach (Del Hughes) because he did all the work," said Jonesboro volleyball coach Dan Maehlman. "It helps when girls go from club to high school because they come back better. It was a good partnership. He did a great job. I'm really proud of Myza. It's going to be crazy going all over the place with kids going to the NFL as well as playing college basketball and volleyball. This is why I do it and it's fun to support the kids."
The seeds of her passion for the sport, which helped in her transition from Riverdale to Jonesboro, and ultimately led to her college scholarship, were planted at the Atlanta Boom Volleyball Institute.
This intense program is a non-profit organization that trains girls from diverse backgrounds to compete at the junior Olympic level.
While playing at Atlanta Boom, Hill honed her skills against a variety of players from across the metro area. Her dedication and the time invested on their court has proven to be a healthy recipe brewing in her tasty pot athletic accolades.
"Myza is a hard worker and she earned it herself," said Atlanta Boom coach Hughes. "She's going to an NCAA playoff team and they've been conference champions for seven consecutive years. She fit in well with our program. She's one of the most respectful kids that we've had. In a time where athletes are more concerned about themselves, she stands out and it's a testament to her abilities that really signifies this moment."
Hill leaves behind one high-caliber program, that ended the 2007 season at 37-8, undefeated in league play at 9-0 with a Region 4-AAAA crown and a berth in the Elite 8 of the state tournament, for another winning tradition as a member of the Lady Golden Rams.
Last season, Albany State finished 21-15 en route to clinching its seventh-straight Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) championship title. As a result, the Lady Golden Rams advanced to the NCAA Division II National Tournament, but fell to Truman State 3-0.
Once enrolled in school, Hill plans to work closely with the sports teams and hopes to pursue a career as an athletics trainer.
"Besides being overjoyed and overwhelmed, I don't even know if I have the words to explain how I feel. It's a great time. I'm excited and I'm looking forward for her going to the next level in her life," said Myza's mother Millicent Cade.