Carissa Hill paid a visit to St. Mary's College of Maryland last fall to watch a volleyball game and eventually met with head coach Morris Davis, who coached the team through 2012.
Davis resigned after the season, but Hill, a St. Vincent Pallotti High graduate, followed the program and last spring met with Rose Burke, who was hired to take the coaching position.
Hill, the Laurel Leader Athlete of the Year in 2012-13 as a senior, is now a freshman defensive specialist for the Division III Seahawks and is part of an impressive start in the first year under Burke.
St. Mary's won 15 of its first 21 matches during which Hill led the team in digs with 376 (5.08 per set) and service aces with 31. Hill had a game-high 35 digs as St. Mary's beat Gallaudet 3-2.
She played in the first 21 matches and was on the court in 74 of the first 75 sets.
"I like playing defense," Hill said. "It is my favorite part. The hitters do get the glory, and the setters with assists. My favorite part is to get a dig on an awesome kill. It is about being in the right spot at the right time. That is my go-to: 'reading the hitter' on the opposing team and their tendencies."
The Seahawks were 21-9 last season but have not missed a beat under Burke, who played at Division I Cal State Sacramento University in California.
In a 3-2 loss to rival Salisbury on Oct. 8, Hill had a team-high 24 digs.
She had a game-high 14 digs in a 3-0 loss on Oct. 19 at Mary Washington.
"I love my team. It is awesome. It is a cool transition from high school, where some people play just to keep in shape," says Hill, a Lanham resident. "In college everyone wants to play and everyone wants to compete. It is a lot more intense but I like it."
Hill faced off against former Pallotti teammate Zacharie Jackson when St. Mary's played at Marymount University on Oct. 30. in Arlington, Virginia.
Jackson, a four-year member of the Pallotti program, is a freshman setter for the Saints who made a few starts earlier in the season before being used as a reserve in early October.
Pallotti head coach Scott Fifield planned to take his current team to the match at Marymount.
Hill, who played club for Kinetic, also looked at Stevenson, McDaniel and Salisbury for Division III volleyball and checked into the program at Division II St. Leo's in Florida.
Her older sister, Carla, played college volleyball at Division III Mary Baldwin in Staunton, Virginia.
Hill was familiar with one of her current teammates at St. Mary's.
Atholton graduate and sophomore middle blocker Mandy Goodspeed played on the same club team as Pallotti's Johnson.