By Keith McShea
That is true of the girls volleyball winner, Lainy Pierce of Eden.
Actually, she's already there.
Pierce, a five-time state champion, this past year's Class C state finals MVP, and a two-time All-Western New York first-teamer, graduated from Eden early and has been attending classes at Penn State since January.
She joined older sister Kendall, who was part of the Nittany Lions' national championship this past season, at State College, Pa., where both of her parents attended and played volleyball. The Pierce legacy has been strengthened in State College by Lainy's arrival while it has also left a lasting impact here in Western New York. Father Robert is also the Eden boys coach and directs the Eden volleyball club while Kendall and Lainy both played for their uncle, Stephen, at Eden.
Pierce plans to return to Western New York for the June 16 Prep Talk Awards, but she has not been back often since January.
I conducted an email interview with her following her being notified that she was as Prep Talk Player of the Year (she wrote she was "very honored" to be selected).
Here are some excerpts:
How at-home you feel at Penn State … especially with your sister there?
I grew up familiar with the school, I had been around the campus for volleyball tournaments when I was very young and a several volleyball matches, so I felt relatively comfortable adjusting from high school to college so fast. My coaching staff and teammates at Penn State have been awesome making extra efforts to help ensure a smooth transition.
I also think a huge contributing factor to my successful transition was because I had my sister here to who showed me the ropes and helped me out a lot. Whether it was quick pointers on the technique of a lift in the weight room, or answering a desperate call to help me find a certain building, Kendall has been my saving grace, breath of fresh air, and piece of home that has made my experience so far at Penn State incredible.
How does it feels to be part of a big-time program that has SUCH high standards?
What I found is that I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect because for the longest time I thought that's what Division I programs like Penn State wanted, but you have to be accepting of the fact that perfection isn't attainable. My coach finds value in players who go hard every practice no matter what. A mistake is bound to happen at some point, that's part of being human, but coach [Russ] Rose pays attention to how you react or comeback after just making a mistake rather than so much the mistake itself. I think that is one of the most important things I've learned.
I, along with 18 other young women, are honored to play for such a notable collegiate program. We work hard everyday to remind ourselves and other! s that we are going after that National Championship every year.
It must be awesome to start your college experience so quickly, but was there anything tough about it? Anything you had to give up?
After finishing our finals [for the spring semester] we were able to go home for about 10 days but then back to school to start summer training and classes. I had a thousand different emotions running through me every time I thought about after finals when Kendall and me got to hop in the car to start the four-hour drive back home. I got the chance to surprise a couple of my friends by saying I was coming home a day later and showed up at their lacrosse game the day I actually got home.
It's hard to describe what it is like to drive through your town or walk through the house you grew up in after not being home a full semester. You have a such a greater appreciation for everything "home" has to offer.
If asked my coach would let me go back to prom but in all honestly I'd feel somewhat silly. Although I might miss the growing anticipation of graduation that you share between your senior friends and some other senior privileges or functions such as prom, I am where I want to be, doing what I love to do and I don't regret making the decision to graduate early one bit.
What kind of routine/schedule do you have as part of a big-time Division I program?
Once I got on campus I got thrown right into the mix. I got on campus Saturday, January 11 and started taking classes that following Monday the 13th. We had a week off of training for everyone to settle into their classes and then jumped right into it with workouts every morning, Monday-Friday at 6 a.m. Our schedules were practically the same everyday: wake up, train, classes, practice, study, sleep, and somewhere in there have a social life!
The atmosphere in the gym during practice and even in the weight-room is awesome. It is important to be focused and working hard whether working out or during practice, but when we achieve both of those states in our play, having fun is inevitable. You push each other to make others better but more importantly the team better.
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Pierce's honor was first unveiled on Thursday evening's episode of PrepTalkTV, which also featured boys volleyball winner Brian Costello of Canisius.
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All Prep Talk Players of the Year will be honored at the inaugural Prep Talk Awards on June 16 at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo, featuring Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Reed and Janet Snyder of Kiss 98.5. The Prep Talk Awards will honor Prep Talk Players of the Year in more than 30 sports, along with the All-Western New York first teams in football and basketball.
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Our Countdown to the Prep Talk Awards will feature a different Prep Talk Player of the Year each day until the big day.
The list thus far:
Countdown to the Prep Talk Awards / Prep Talk Players of the Year
May 15 -- Boys soccer: Brandon Galanti, Frontier
May 16 -- Girls soccer: Carissima Cutrona, Williamsville South
May 17 -- Girls swimming: Dina Rommel, Clarence
May 18 -- Boys swimming: Jack Boyd, Canisius
May 19 -- Wrestling: Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer, Cheektowaga
May 20 -- Boys bowling: Chad Mee, Frontier
May 21 -- Girls bowling: Haley Carroll, Williamsville South
May 22 -- Boys volleyball: Brian Costello, Canisius
Today -- Girls volleyball: Lainy Pierce, Eden
taggedEden | Volleyball