Laurel Leader Athlete of the Year a true leader

Pallotti senior Carissa Hill looks forward to attempting something few elite athletes accomplish: playing two sports in college. Hill will compete in volleyball and lacrosse at Division III St. Mary's College of Maryland.

The 2013 Laurel Leader Athlete of the Year understands it's a daunting challenge.

"I really love both sports, and I am excited to try it," said Hill, who carried a 3.6 grade-point average. "I know it's going to be a lot of work. I have to do a lot of training and there will be a lot of practices. I am kind of nervous."

Hill said her sister Carla, who played volleyball at Pallotti and Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, helped calm her fears.

"My sister says a couple of girls on her college volleyball team played three sports in college," Hill said. "That made me feel a little bit better."

The 5-foot-6 Hill considers volleyball her primary sport since she devoted more time to it in high school.

She has played for the Kinetic Volleyball Club in Lanham since 2008, with a season that runs from November to April.

That experience on the court helped Hill earn MVP honors this past season for Pallotti, while serving as co-captain for the past three.

She's one of the few three-year co-captains Scott Fifield has worked with in his 16 years both at Pallotti and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Virginia.

"It was nice to see her become more of a vocal leader on the team," he said. "She was like, 'Sure, we are going to win today' The other girls were like, 'That must be the case.' Her first two years, she was kind of quiet."

Hill, a libero, helped Pallotti achieve a 13-8 season, leading the 2012 team in digs (515) and ranking second in both aces (54) and back-row kills (34).

The number of digs recorded jumped out to Fifield. It was nearly double the total from the previous season.

"She was first in the entire D.C. area," the coach said. "She anticipates the play better than any other person. She reads what the 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."

Pallotti girls lacrosse Paul Billingsley says Hill's offensive skills surprised him when she made the varsity as a sophomore.

"Normally, when kids are starting their careers, they shoot right at the keeper, he said. "She was placing her shots in the corners. It's like she had been playing for years. I think she just picked it up when she came to Pallotti."

Hill, a three-year starter at attack, finished her varsity career with 199 goals, including 78 as a junior and 75 this past season.

She had some memorable performances this past season, scoring nine goals in an 18-11 victory over Oldfields on March 28 and racking up seven goals in a 12-8 triumph over defending league champion Chapelgate on April 15.

Billingsley said the Panthers certainly felt Hill's absence when she missed two games — particularly the Mount Carmel contest in Essex on April 8 — because of a volleyball commitment and a school play.

"Without Carissa there, the attack didn't quite know what to do," the coach said of the player who finished the season scoring at least six goals six times.

Billingsley also saw Hill, a team co-captain, step up as a leader in her first year in that role for Pallotti (12-5).

"I had to be more vocal," Hill said. "We had a lot of new people who had never played before. It was the first year I had been a leader in lacrosse. I hadn't been playing as long as some of the other captains. It's a different experience. In volleyball, I always had a leadership role."

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