In a humid gym sunk in the heart of Travis County is a blonde haired beauty. She is playing volleyball at a level most would find impossible. Blocking. Killing. Digging. She does it all. Each block, each kill is done with pure intensity, as a loud scream comes from the apex of motion. When she jumps for a kill, her long muscular legs land with an impact that shakes the ground, her long blonde hair flies through the air each time she hurdles up for a kill. She is unruly. She is the definition of controlled aggression.
She stares at her opponents through the black and white net; her cyan eyes pierce her opponents with a menacing glare. A threatening figure standing 5 ft. 11 in. dressed in red and black. This girl is no Barbie doll. Today is new for her; she is playing middle blocker. It’s not a new position, but it’s certainly unfamiliar. In the stands is Jason Allen, a recruiter from Sam Houston State University. He is in Austin, Texas, to scout her teammate, Megan McNamara, not the anger-filled, violent hitter named Anna Ferguson, who is killing the ball in a position that has no business getting kills.
It doesn’t take long for Allen to notice the scrappy player. Is she raw? Of course she is; volleyball is still new to her. She has only been playing for three years, and her main objective is to hit the ball as hard as possible. She hasn’t learned how to tip or how to control her emotions. She stays quiet after every kill she gets no emotion, just ther to play the game.
The one thing he can’t stop noticing is her form. She isn’t jumping off two feet. She is jumping off of one foot, it’s not the correct form, but it doesn’t matter because she is racking up kills.
She plays her heart out, diving and sprawling. She doesn’t know there is a scout in the stands, but he knows she is on the court.
Her team wins the game and she flips the switch. Another Anna Ferguson emerges; this one is light hearted, energetic and in love with her boyfriend.
Her hair goes from a pony tail to just hanging down. She laughs about the game, smiles a crooked smile and hugs her teammates, encouraging them and telling them they did just fine.
But what happened to the killer? The girl, who continued to rack up kills because she has to be the best, has transferred into a giggly, smiley-faced goofball. Allen walks over to Head Coach Tracy Hurst and asks about Ferguson.
“She is only 17,” says Hurst.
Then why is she playing in an 18 and up league? Can it be true, can the killer be doing this well against older girls?
Allen informs the coach he is interested in Ferguson, along with McNamara, and Katie O’Neal. He gets their information, and he heads back to Huntsville to tell Head Coach Brenda Gray about the discovery.
Ferguson is excited about the situation but not sure what to make of it. In her choice to play in the 18 and up league, she had made a crucial mistake. The scouts look more at the 17-age group and she had skipped through the radar scene. The instinct, the one that keeps going till she can not go anymore, the one that drove her to play up an age group, is keeping her from being seen by anyone else.
She doesn’t cry about it or make excuses; she turns it to the court. That’s where she does her talking. As well as she is playing she needs Sam Houston State. It’s not her first choice; hell, it’s not her second or third, but it is a choice.
This is how she deals with rejection. She turns it to the court, she becomes the best. She practices serves, tips, spikes and digs. She takes a lesson from her brother, who lacks height, but loves football. If you can’t beat them, then tough shit, you man up and beat them anyway.
A week after the game a questionnaire comes in the mail, it’s from Sam Houston State University. Ferguson knows how this process works, she fills out the questionnaire, it asks about her, her achievements, her background, brothers, sister, is she interested in going to Sam Houston State? Of course, she wants to go to Sam Houston State; she needs them just like they need her.
It’s June, and it’s the middle of summer, she goes back to what she does when she’s not playing volleyball. She spends time with her boyfriend, who lives less than two miles from her house. She jogs over there, sparing the time to drive her 1996 red Ford Expedition with the pealing paint.
She loves the car because, like her, everyday it makes it. The car pushes through, grits it out finds a way to survive every day. She had a choice, a new BMW convertible or the Tahoe and she chose the clunker and her family reminds her of it every day, but they don’t see what the car represents. It represents hard work and determination – a desire to keep pushing when it should have stopped years ago.
She spends almost every day during the summer at Greg Coutant’s house. He has been the man who has had her heart since seventh grade, when he approached her to go to the Christmas dance. Ever since, they have been inseparable.
They discuss the move to Sam Houston, he is going to Texas A&M and a long distance relationship is not something either of them is interested in. They decide not to bother with the issue now and just spend the rest of their summer together.
She waits for her senior year of volleyball to roll around. She was on a mission. She had a scholarship already, but she wants to play at an aggressive level. She goes back to playing outside hitter, a position where getting kills is part of the job description.
Lake Highlands is a solid volleyball team. They are ranked eighth in the state, and again with Ferguson on the front lines, the team made it to state playoffs.
She is an anomaly on her team. She pays no attention to stats. Other team member are always talking about their kills and their digs, but to her the only stat that matters is in the win column.
The Lake Highland Wildcats were on a ferocious tear; they found themselves in the Regional Semi-finals against Austin Westlake. For the team this game was huge, but to Ferguson it was even bigger. She was playing at Sam Houston State, in front of Coach Gray, and the rest of the volleyball team.
She’s aggressive during the game but not precise, Westlake’s defense is able to absorb the punishment and defeats the Wildcats in a three sets.
She’s mad, not upset. She is angry at herself. How can she let this happen in front of everyone? What will the coach think? What will her future teammates think? She doesn’t cry like the rest of her teammates. She knows volleyball isn’t over for her yet, but to say she is just mad might be an understatement.
Allen, who is in the stands, now sees the other side of Ferguson: when she wins, everything is great, but a loss, well, that is just inexcusable.
She doesn’t even sleep that night. This is how much she hates losing.
“It’s so preventable,” she tells her mother and father after she gets back to Dallas.
When summer rolls around again, Coutant and she come to a conclusion. Going to school, and keeping a long distance relationship isn’t going to work. Her boyfriend of six years is gone, and she is going to a new town without any friends.
August rolls around and she leaves for Sam Houston State in a brand new blue Jeep Liberty. It’s not the beat up Expedition that pushes through every day. She gave that up for something new.
The first week of practice is intense. She leaves her outside hitter position to play middle blocker. The girl who is built on a competitive edge is third on the depth chart, and behind two seniors.
She has a roommate, but not one she is close to. She doesn’t have a boyfriend, but she does have volleyball.
This is how she deals with loneliness. She goes to practice: she works on serving. She can’t beat out two seniors because she can’t close the gap, so she works on the only thing she can do right away. She spends time learning how to serve, how to hit the ball right and how to give her team an advantage.
The first game of the season she gets to play. All the work on serving has paid off, she is the team’s assigned server. She is also a first alternative to come in for middle blocker.
The team takes a trip to North Dakota for a tournament. In their second game they play the University of Washington.
But Washington is something this team is not ready for. They are the Number One team in the country. Frightening is the only way to describe them, but their play is what does it. Ferguson can’t stop looking at them.
They score points and don’t even cheer; machines, that’s what they are no emotion just winning. She wonders if she can be like that, can she mature and keep a straight face during the game. Can she be that type of player?
Greg comes to see a game before Halloween, they are keeping in touch; they both want to be together. They talk after the game and promise to keep in touch. It’s only a matter of time before they are seeing each other again.
Can you see it? Can you see the Greek character flaw that Anna herself can not see? She is independent, she is self sufficient but only when he is with her. Greg is a piece of her, and he is what makes her independent.
But why is it she is still with Coutant? Is it because of her parents’ divorce, because they married so young? Or is it because she and Greg come from the same background? Or maybe, just maybe, that in our lives we each find that one person who completes us, that this person has every quirk we have and in that person she has found Greg.