Over the course of her life, Samantha Vallance has been through the trials and tribulations.
But through them all, Vallance has handled all those challenges with a first-class attitude.
And it’s that attitude that’s allowed the Wheelersburg volleyball standout to obtain an opportunity to play in college, as Vallance officially signed to play the sport at Kentucky Christian University in a signing ceremony held at Wheelersburg High School on Wednesday evening.
For Vallance, the accomplishment of playing the sport that she loves in college is thrilling to the senior.
“It feels pretty overwhelming, actually,” Vallance said. “I was pretty nervous all day long, but now that the signing is official, I’m really excited that it took place.”
However, former Wheelersburg head coach Kendra Coleman and KCU head coach Bruce Dixon believe that it’s an accomplishment that Vallance deserves due to the work that the volleyball hand puts in on the floor and in the classroom.
“Sam is just a great student and a great human being all the way around,” Coleman said. “She is one that can take anything that is thrown at her and persevere through adversity. She’s going to be a great asset for Kentucky Christian.”
“Those are qualities that coaches never take for granted,” Dixon said. “Obviously, from an athletic standpoint, we’re pleased with Sam, but she’s got the other things that will make her a good fit at Kentucky Christian, and that excites me.”
Over her high school career, Vallance proved to be a standout all over the frontline for Wheelersburg, but primarily as a middle hitter, where the standout was an All-SOC honoree over the final two seasons of her high school career.
In her senior season alone, Vallance recorded the highest hitting percentage on the team (.274), finished second on the team with 24 blocks, and collected 118 kills to place third on a unit that went 20-5 and advanced to the Division III District Finals. The Lady Pirates recorded a perfect 14-0 mark in the SOC II ranks to claim their third conference title in a row in 2017, and went 58-14, including a blistering 41-1 mark in SOC II play, during Vallance’s final three seasons of play.
“Sam contributed to our successes over the last three years, with winning the league three years in a row,” Coleman said. “She played a big part in that, with her being the middle hitter for our squad for two of those years. I always relied on Sam to block and come up with big hits in times of need.”
“(Playing at Wheelersburg) was one of the best times of my life,” Vallance said. “It was really fun. I’ve been playing volleyball for about seven years now, and it’s something that I know is a part of my life and who I am as a person.”
And, according to Coleman, it was Vallance’s versatility — and willingness to help the unit in any way possible — that allowed the Lady Pirates to become a conference and district
“Sam can play anywhere on the front row,” Coleman said. “If I asked her to be an outside hitter, she’d do that; if I asked her to be a middle hitter, she’d be a middle. She is just one of those players that is willing to do whatever is asked of her in order to contribute to our team. She’s going to contribute a lot to KCU, and will be a great asset for whatever they need because she’s one of those players that is flexible to do whatever is needed.”
That versatility will be a welcome addition to Kentucky Christian, where Dixon has thrived with individuals who have shown that they can play multiple positions at the collegiate level. The veteran head coach, who will enter his 27th season with the Lady Knights’ volleyball program in the fall, plans to do the same with Vallance, who will initially play at outside hitter but could move around due to positional need.
“In volleyball, versatility is really prized,” Dixon said. “We’re going to find the best spot for the team and what’s going to benefit the team at that point in time.”
Even though he’s only recruited Vallance for a few months now, Dixon already sees excellent qualities in the multi-dimensional athlete.
“Sam has a lot of pluses,” Dixon said. “She already has a good, solid swing, with good timing. That’s really tough to teach. She’s got a lot of those qualities already in place. Everything that I’ve seen leads me to believe that catching up to the speed of volleyball is nothing beyond her grasp.”
At Kentucky Christian, which is located in Grayson, Ky., Vallance has already found several points that make KCU the right fit.
There’s the small campus atmosphere. There’s the proximity to Wheelersburg — less than 45 minutes from home to Grayson. Finally — and perhaps most importantly — KCU offers the right career path for Vallance to succeed. The academic stalwart plans to major in biology, and then receive training in psychology at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, W. Va. following graduation.
“(KCU) had a homey feeling to me,” Vallance said. “I felt like I was supposed to be there. The campus isn’t too big, so it’s a lot easier for the teachers to connect with their students, and I like that aspect of it.”
While Vallance will be among seven seniors to depart the Wheelersburg roster at season’s end, Coleman feels fortunate to have coached an athlete of Vallance’s character.
“I’ve been in the system for seven years,” Coleman said. “It’s nice to see players grow from their seventh grade year to their senior year. Sam has always had a really strong passion for volleyball, so it makes me really proud to see Sam carry on her talents to the collegiate level.”
Vallance, however, feels the same way about Coleman, the rest of the Wheelersburg volleyball coaching staff over the past four seasons, and her teammates.
“My teammates and coaches helped me to become the person that I am today,” Vallance said. “I’m really appreciative of what they have done for me.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7