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By KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 17, 2002
In four years at Seven Rivers Christian, Danielle Albury has done a lot of growing up on the court.
There are many moments that defined the 5-foot-11 hitter/setter. Some have been her best and worst, physically and mentally.
Two seasons ago against Fort Myers Canterbury in the final four, the Warriors were swept. Tears rolled down Albury's face faster than she could wipe them away.
This year, she was a pillar of strength, leading her team to a 28-2 record.
"I've had kids that were in that senior class when I was a sophomore and used to fall apart so easily, they came up to me and said, 'I am so proud of you, you have matured so much,' " Albury said.
There were many plays worth remembering.
Against Mount Dora Bible, Albury rocketed an overpass straight down, hitting a player in the stomach and knocking her over. In a game at Central, the hosts overpassed the ball and Albury heard an opponent utter "Oh, shoot" and duck right before Albury crushed the ball.
When Albury rotated into the back row as a setter, she would be responsible for her teammates racking up spikes.
There are no statewide individual records kept. But few, if any, players could have tallied more than 458 kills and 350 assists in the same season. That is not including Albury's 61 aces and 364 passes/digs.
"There's no way there's been anyone who came close to that," Seven Rivers coach Scott Lyons said. "To be that versatile, that is incredible."
To understand Albury is to realize that she is not always as strong on the inside as she is a hitter.
Her mother, Nancy, said that when Albury was a freshman and sophomore, people got upset with her on-court demeanor. But she never was mad at anybody but herself.
"It wasn't an 'I'm better' attitude. It was 'I stink and I'm falling apart because of it,' " Nancy said.
That lack of self-confidence translated to Albury's studies, though she has a 3.7 GPA, according to her mother.
"Nobody ever has to tell her she did something right because even if she does it reasonably right, in her mind it's not right," Nancy said.
"The teachers know her by now, when she goes, 'Oh, I failed that test' and they laugh in her face when she says it," Nancy said.
The third of four children, Albury has plenty to do off the court at home. She is helping to raise her sister, Iesha, who's in the fourth grade.
"My mom works all the time, so I had to take care of her," Albury said. "People ask me if I'm her mother."
Nancy said her daughter is extremely mature in some respects, and has become a favorite babysitter around Seven Rivers because of it.
"I could leave for a year and as long as there was money, nothing at our house would be lacking," Nancy said.
"She cleans house more than I clean house, she cooks more than I cook, she does a lot of stuff for Iesha." Nancy is divorced, and Danielle has not had much contact with her father. She and her mother are close.
"We're friends," Nancy said. "I'm just dying that she's going away next year."
It was far from certain Albury's senior season would be such a success.
As a junior, she was the All-Area Player of the Year in volleyball and a first-team pick in basketball after averaging 15 points and 12.8 rebounds.
But at the beginning of this volleyball season, the team's new coach did not know what to make of his star.
"I had made the comment out loud that this is the most uncoachable kid that I have ever come across," Lyons said.
Albury forced herself to adjust.
"In the first game, I made a lot of dumb mistakes, like when I should have gone after the ball and coach is like 'Danielle what are you doing?' and got frustrated with me," Albury said.
"I almost started to get kind of angry and close up. Then I was like 'I can't do that, I'm not allowed to do that. I'm the senior and if I did that, then they're going to do that and think it's okay,' " Albury said. Although Albury said she is not vocal on the courti, this season she has emerged as a a leader.
Lyons has seen her confidence grow and, although she has had a couple of mini-meltdowns, Albury generally has kept her cool.
"She's not going to be perfect, but other than that couple of times, which to me are nothing, she has been unbelievably spectacular," said Lyons, whose freshman daughter, Lacey, is among Danielle's best friends on the squad. The leadership ability has joined physical tools that always were there.
Her vertical reach is over 10 feet, she can nearly dunk a volleyball through a basketball rim, and her block jump is 9-foot-7. Albury's next stop has yet to be decided.
This summer, she went to a setter/hitter camp at the University of Tampa and attracted serious interest from the coaching staff.
Lyons also has been in contact with coaches from University of South Florida, Stetson University, University of North Florida, Florida Southern and Florida State, and will send each a recruiting tape.
Albury will sign in the spring and look forward to creating memories on a new court.
DANIELLE ALBURY, SEVEN RIVERS CHRISTIAN: The player of the year had 458 kills, 350 assists, 161 blocks and 61 aces. She made 191 of 222 serves and 364 passes/digs, good for 77 percent passing.
KRISTI LANGWORTHY, HERNANDO: The Leopards' offensive catalyst and only four-year starter, the senior setter had 164 assists, 135 digs and a serving percentage of 100 with six aces despite missing time with a knee injury.
TAMARA TATHAM, CENTRAL: The senior setter produced a school-record 479 assists with only two errors in 313 attempts (99 serving percentage), leading the Bears to the GCAC title. She had 178 digs and 32 blocks, second-most on the team.
THALIA TATHAM, CENTRAL: The senior outside hitter/back-line specialist set a school record for passing, grading out at 2.61 on a 3.0 scale. She had 114 kills, 106 digs and a serving percentage of 90, including 18 aces.
LISANDRA VAZQUEZ, CRYSTAL RIVER: The senior outside hitter had a team-high 139 digs and was the backbone for the postseason qualifier with consistent serving and strong defense. She was a four-year varsity player.
ALICE ZEISS, SEVEN RIVERS CHRISTIAN: The sophomore setter/hitter had 434 assists, 155 kills, 26 blocks and 47 aces. She made 284 of 310 serves, good for 92 percent.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Scott Lyons, Seven Rivers Christian.
CENTRAL: Heather Edwards, Sr.; Julie Schneidmiller, Jr.; Sharesa Scott, Sr.; Chivone Weyde, Sr.
CITRUS: Brittney Doyle, Sr.; Sam Hodson, Sr.; Alycia LePage, Sr.; Ashley Worrell, Sr.
CRYSTAL RIVER: Shana Lockley, Jr.; Jennifer MacRae, Jr.; Alisa Tisdale, Sr.
HERNANDO: Cristi Brown, Sr.; Kara Bailey, Jr.; Karen Ferrigno, Jr.
HERNANDO CHRISTIAN ACADEMY: Sarah Bowe, Sr.; Patricia Gavin, Jr.
LECANTO: Lisa Carter, Sr.; Kacie Henderson, Sr.; Stacey Lowe, Sr.; Heather Pontius, Sr.
SEVEN RIVERS CHRISTIAN: Rachael Capra, 7th; Rachel Ebert, So.; Lacey Lyons, Fr.
SPRINGSTEAD: Abbey Behensky, Fr.; Diana Lossing, Jr.
-- Compiled by Frank Pastor and Kristen Leigh Porter.