South Pemiscot's Elizabeth Gray signs to play volleyball at Williams Baptist College
South Pemiscot High School volleyball standout Elizabeth Gray signed a letter of intent to accept a volleyball scholarship with Williams Baptist University Jan. 31.
With family, friends, and coaches on hand to witness the signing at the South Pemiscot gymnasium lobby, Gray put ink to paper to make her commitment to WBU official.
Also in attendance was WBU head volleyball coach Lee Moore. In an exclusive statement released to the Pemiscot Press, the second-year coach expressed his enthusiasm to have Gray as a member of his Lady Eagles roster.
“We are thrilled to have Lizzy as a part of our program here at Williams,” he said. “She brings with her not only the experience of playing multiple positions but also a contagious enthusiasm both on and off the court. Lizzy's hard work in the classroom will also set her up for success in collegiate academics. When you tie all that together with her high level of character qualities, we know that she will be a great fit for WBU!”
Over the course of her senior season as Gray was weighing her options about her academic future and athletic career, she visited the campus of Williams Baptist in Walnut Ridge, Ark., in the fall.
“Coach Moore and I got in contact at the senior preview day I attended in October. After a tour of the campus and meeting some of the players, he invited me to open tryouts,” she explained in an email interview with the Pemiscot Press. “Open tryouts are basically a day anyone can go and practice with the team. After practice Coach Moore informed me that he wanted me on his team and would get in touch about my athletic scholarship.”
Reflecting on her day at the university, Gray says she knew almost immediately that WBU was the place for her.
“It was almost instant after practicing that I knew Williams was the place for me,” she said. “The Coaches are some of the most godly, caring people I have ever met, and the players are like a family. I couldn't wait to be a part of this amazing team.”
Keenly aware of the substantial rise in competition at the collegiate level, Gray plans to prepare to the fullest for her freshman outing as a Lady Eagle.
“My plans before heading to Williams are to get in the best physical shape I can between now and then,” she said. “Also I plan to work as hard as my body will let me be the best collegiate volleyball player possible.”
Pleased with her star player’s decision, South Pemiscot head volleyball coach Jackie Booker has enjoyed coaching Gray and seeing her grow as a player and as an individual.
“Lizzy has always been a hard worker, giving her 120 percent,” the longtime Lady Bulldog coach stated. “Her progress over the years has been outstanding, and she never made excuses and was always eager to learn and do better. Lizzy has been a great learner and willing to go the extra mile to make herself into a great player. She has attended several camps throughout her high school career to learn as much as possible about volleyball because she loves the sport so much.
“It has been so much fun coaching Lizzy all these years, and I have seen her grow not only as a player but as an individual,” Booker further commented. “She has developed into a fine young lady whom we will miss greatly. Lizzy has developed great leadership skills and is always helping the younger players learn proper techniques and form. I have seen Lizzy step out of her comfort zone and step into other shoes to help out her team. She will do whatever her coach asks of her to help her team be successful in every way. We could not have asked for a more willing and helpful player throughout these years.”
Confident Gray has the skill set and volleyball IQ to make a significant contribution to Williams volleyball, Booker encourages Gray to never give up.
“[Lizzy must] listen to her coaches and work hard every day and never give up and keep her head up even when she feels down,” Booker advised. “Lizzy can become a great key player for her college team by being a hitter, libero or even setter. She has the capacity to learn everything about this sport because she is very smart and very quick to learn.”
Realizing the importance of support and encouragement, Gray made a statement on social media on the day of her signing.
“As most of you already know, today I officially accomplished one of my biggest goals. I signed with Williams Baptist University to play college volleyball,” she stated. “This has been my dream since I was 12 years old. Six years of hard work, dedication and tons of injuries finally paid off. I get to play the sport I love for four more years, and I couldn’t be more excited.
“I would like to send a big thank you to Coach Lee Moore for giving me this opportunity to further my volleyball career,” she continued. “And a giant thank you to Coach Jackie (Booker) for the last six years of support and coaching. I wouldn’t be here without you. And last but not least, thank you to my parents for giving me every opportunity to grow in this amazing sport! I love you all and can’t wait to show you what I’m made of.”
Monday, Gray sent an additional statement of gratitude via email to the Pemiscot Press.
“The first person I want to thank is Coach Nick Nealey. He has always had my back in any decision I have made and pushed me to be the best all-around athlete and person I could be,” she said. “Next on this long list is Ashley Booker. She has been my mentor for years, helping me improve in every aspect on the court. Not only do I see her as an amazing player and coach, but also as the older sister I never had. And last, but definitely not least, I want to thank my late great-grandmother. She was my backbone and biggest cheerleader. She would listen for hours to me spilling every second and every play of the game. Without her, I wouldn't have this love for volleyball.”