Junior steps up role for Lady Rocket volleyball

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By Todd Martin

Keyshia Patterson didn't start playing volleyball until she was in the seventh grade at West Middle.

"I didn't know very much about it, but I just wanted to play," she said. "It looked like fun."

Now, four years after starting at West, Patterson, a junior, has become central to the Lady Rockets' success - she will be the team's captain.

"She's our key right now," head coach Felicia Pace said. "She matches the play on the other side of the net, and she's a very aggressive player."

Patterson lines up as the middle hitter/middle blocker for the Lady Rockets, and she's the one that will deliver that "wow" hit.

"She really packs some power -- our highlight hitter," Pace said.

Patterson, though, sees the position as more than just the big kill.

"It's very important, and you really have to think on every play," she said. "You have to be a smart player."

While she's comfortable with her position, and with getting that spike that makes opponents take notice, it's the role of leadership that she's still growing into.

"I'm trying to be more vocal along with leading by example -- I'm still working on it," she said. "Sometimes I get mad at myself, but I don't want show it. I have to keep the others from getting down, and try to keep the team pumped up."

Pace said Patterson is more vocal than she thinks.

"She can talk to anybody about anything," the coach joked. "She always has something to say. Plus, she can play anywhere on the court, so she has the credibility to help others get in position and make the right plays."

Patterson also exudes confidence in herself and her teammates.

"I think we can be very good this year," she said. "We all work together, and we like each other. We're just all really good friends."

Patterson also thinks the team has a good shot to advance past the district tournament for the first time since Lady Rockets took the title in 2005.

"I think we can win the district, and after that we'll see," she said. "We just have to play hard and play together."

While it's a team game, Pace knows it's her junior hitter that will lead the way.

"She's the one to stop if you're playing us," Pace said. "She's our leader on and off the court."