St. Vincent Pallotti senior Carissa Hill has many fond memories of watching her sister Carla play volleyball at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia.
That's where Carissa fell in love with the aura that surrounds the college game.
"Attending all of her games, I couldn't imagine going to college without being involved in volleyball," Carissa said.
Now, Carissa is brink of launching a career of her own at the next level.
She's visited two Division III schools, Salisbury State University and St. Mary's College of Maryland, and is interested in another, Christopher Newport University in Virginia.
The 5-foot-6 libero also will take a hard look at several Division II schools, including St. Leo (Florida), Shippensburg (Pennsylvania) and Shepherd universities (West Virginia).
"I was trying a lot harder to get college looks this season," Hill said. "I was a lot more intense and focused on my position."
Pallotti coach Scott Fifield is confident that she could start at any one of those schools.
The 17-year-old Hill put herself in an even better position to play in college by competing for Lanham's Kinetic Volleyball Club, which is active throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
"She certainly belongs at the highest level she is comfortable with," Fifield said. "If that's at the top of Division III — Christopher Newport and Salisbury are top-10 — then that's great. I am sure she could handle herself at lower Division I schools."
Hill, a four-starter at Pallotti, led the Panthers to a 13-8 record this fall while earning Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference All-Star honors for the first time.
She ranked first on the team in digs (515) and second in both back-row kills (34) and aces (54).
Hill had some memorable performances, including 40 digs in a five-set win over Notre Dame Prep Oct. 15 and had 36 digs in an another five-set victory over Virginia's Peninsula Catholic three days earlier.
But the total number of digs this season — almost twice as many last year (292) — was number that stood out to Fifield the most.
"She was first in entire D.C. area," he said. "She anticipates the play better than any other person. She reads what opposing hitters are going to do. She has already moved to the likely place where the ball is going to go before the ball is going to be hit. That's a skill few people have."
Hill, who started with Valen Johnson, Paige Smith, Zacharie Jackson, Casey Tait and Io Chaney, was just as valuable to the Panthers for her leadership skills. That proved to be especially true this season.
She's one of the few three-year co captains Fifield has coached in 16 varsity seasons at Pallotti and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Virginia.
"Her first two years, she was kind of quiet," Fifield said. "It was nice to see her become more of a vocal leader on the team. She was like, 'Sure, we are going to win today.' The other girls were like, 'That must be the case.'"
After the high school season ends, Hill, for the fourth consecutive year, joins the Kinetic Volleyball Club to play in its six month season.
Kinetic's Amy Moffitt couldn't be happier to coach her.
"I wish I had a whole team full of Carissas," Moffit said. "She is so strong mentally and physically. She has such a positive attitude and is versatile. She is good at any position."
In addition to volleyball, Hill swam on the Pallotti varsity as a freshman and has started at attack on Panthers' lacrosse team the past three seasons.
Hill scored a whopping 78 goals last year, but she says volleyball is her biggest passion.
"My dad, mom and sister (2006 Pallotti graduate) have been playing for years and years," said Hill, who plays pickup volleyball in the summer at the New Carrollton Swim Club to stay in shape. "I started when I was real young and they taught me all the fundamentals. So when I came into club, most players were learning fundamentals. I already knew them."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun