HANCEVILLE – CeCe Hall’s first volleyball spike in high school almost made nothing but net. She thought that was how it was supposed to be done.
“I thought it was a good thing. During my very first practice I hit it so hard, it bounced off the backboard across the gym and almost went in the goal. I figured I had accomplished something,” said Hall, a Wallace State volleyball freshman and graduate of Dothan High School. “I quickly figured out I had a lot to learn about volleyball.”
Hall is still eager to absorb all the volleyball knowledge she can while serving as an integral piece to Wallace State’s success this season. Hall, a 6-foot-1 middle hitter, is fourth on the Lions with 99 kills and second on the club with 26 blocks as Wallace State enters Wednesday’s home matches against Snead State and Wallace-Selma.
Wallace State, the five-time defending state champion, goes into the matches with a 21-6 record and perfect 10-0 conference slate, aided by Hall’s strong presence on the front row.
“CeCe’s work ethic and attitude sets her apart from most players. She didn’t come to Wallace State with any preconceived ideas about how good she was already. CeCe knew she was behind everyone else, but the difference in her and most players was that she has been willing to listen to me and her teammates, and it has mattered to her to get better,” said Wallace State coach Randy Daniel, the winningest coach in WSCC volleyball program history. “I’m constantly amazed at CeCe’s improvements, especially so quickly.”
Hall’s journey to the volleyball court in high school wasn’t the most conventional. As a high school freshman, she was playing the trumpet in the high school band. Hall was approached by Dothan’s volleyball coach after she performed at halftime of a football game.
“My coach and the volleyball players came to me and said I needed to be playing volleyball, especially since I was so tall. I asked if it was a sport girls played. I didn’t know a thing about volleyball. My coach kept begging me, so I went for a tryout and made the team,” said Hall, who can dunk a ping pong ball. “I didn’t play many matches my sophomore year because I was watching a lot, trying to learn more about the game. Going into my junior year, I really got a feel for it. I dedicated my entire summers to volleyball. I worked on it every day. I wound up breaking the school record for kills in a game.”
Hall, who also lettered in basketball at Dothan, had one primary job on the volleyball court in high school: accumulate as many kills and blocks as possible, mainly from one position.
There was a volleyball learning curve for Hall in high school and it got a little steeper once she arrived at Wallace State and started practicing with her new teammates.
“When I got here, coach Daniel and the players started talking about rotations and positions. Or they were talking about a one ball or a three ball. I was lost. I was just used to hitting high balls, killing it, and getting my hands up if it was returned,” Hall said. “There was so much more to learn about the fundamentals of the game. I laid in bed in night wondering if was going to be able to get it all down.”
Hall’s teammates quickly came to the rescue. Multiple players spent additional hours after practice to make sure Hall was more comfortable with the team’s rotations and strategies.
“I’m really grateful for that. It helped me bond with a lot of my teammates, and it meant a lot they took the time after practice to help. Each of them stayed with me after practice at least once or twice,” Hall said. “I want to be as good as I can be here, and my teammates have really pushed me when I’ve needed it.”
Daniel was impressed his team took Hall under their wings, especially because they devoted extra hours in the gym after practice was complete.
“CeCe was an instant favorite by anyone that came in contact with her, and one of the greatest feelings a coach can have was to see CeCe’s teammates helping her. They were telling her things that most players understand at a much earlier age,” Daniel said. “CeCe was like a sponge absorbing everything her teammates told her, and of course, she was doing her best to execute those skills. I knew we might have something special with this team when I saw a group of players finding it important to help one of their teammates.”
Daniel considers Hall a hidden gem of the freshman class, and he took a flyer on her without seeing a single kill or block by Hall, whether in person or on film. Daniel became aware of Hall’s athletic ability by a coach at a four-year institution and subsequently invited Hall to campus for a visit last spring semester. After meeting for nearly four hours in his office, Daniel was blown away by Hall’s character and attitude about life and athletics.
Daniel offered Hall an opportunity to join the perennial conference champions, and she pledged her intentions to Wallace State after returning home.
“I was impressed with CeCe in my office so much that I offered her on the spot without seeing her play. I was sold on her because of her great personality and athletic potential. She displayed the best character, a wonderful attitude and was very ambitious about her future as a student-athlete,” Daniel said. “I told her that day that can’t teach you to be athletic, I can’t teach you the great character and personality you already have, but I can teach you how to play volleyball.”
Once Hall arrived to campus during the summer, Daniel was concerned just how far behind she was fundamentally on the court.
“I honestly questioned my offer to her. CeCe didn’t know any of the ‘normal’ volleyball terminology (set numbers) and was very ineffective. I knew it was going to take a lot of training to get her to where she could help us on the court in a game that mattered,” Daniel said. “However, shortly after she arrived on campus we began conducting skills camps for local schools, and I noticed her watching my demonstrations and listening to my instructions. She wanted to learn.”
Wallace State started the 2014 season on a 12-day road trip, playing 13 matches in three different states (Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio). Hall received minimal playing time over the first 12 matches, yet performed effectively when she was called upon. While in Toledo, Ohio, Daniel decided to pencil Hall into the starting lineup during the final match of the road trip against Jackson (Mich.) College. Hall cashed in the starting opportunity, finishing with seven kills and six blocks.
Hall has started every match since. She posted a career-high 12 kills against Southern Union on Sept. 2 in the Lions’ conference opener and is third on the team with 2.5 kills per set.
Hall, who also had collegiate basketball offers at her disposal, is thrilled she’s had the chance to mature as a volleyball player at Wallace State.
“Once I started playing volleyball I knew I wanted to play in college, but I didn’t think it would actually happen. I’m so glad it did. I prayed about it a lot,” Hall said. “I’m so glad to be a part of this team. I’ve learned so much and continue to do so. Coach Daniel pushes you to go hard and teaches you to never give up. You have to give it your all.”
As Wallace State approaches the stretch run and the conference tournament in early November, Hall and her teammates want to make sure they continue to improve as they pursue a sixth straight conference championship for the program.
“No one here wants to be the first team to mess that streak up. We have a lot of confidence as a team and great chemistry. We want to be the best we can be every match,” Hall said.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit wallacestate.edu.
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