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Albury makes a big impact

The tall but mobile sophomore's "tremendous athletic ability'' puts Seven Rivers in its first final four.

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


LECANTO -- The first thing you notice about Seven Rivers Christian volleyball player Danielle Albury is her 5-foot-11 frame.

The second thing is her agility.

The two usually don't mix.

"When I first came here to play basketball, the coach was like, "Wow, you're pretty coordinated for somebody that tall,' " Albury said.

Albury's mobility allows the sophomore setter/middle hitter to make plays at the net, dive for loose balls and even -- get this -- touch a basketball rim that is 10 feet high.

"I have witnesses," she said.

Her secret?

"Dancing," Albury said. "I take dance class twice a week.

"It helps me a lot. It definitely makes me more coordinated," he said. "I've danced since the first grade."

Although Albury has played volleyball a much shorter length of time (she started when she was in the seventh grade), she has blossomed into one of the area's top players.

"She has tremendous athletic ability," Seven Rivers coach Greg Hamilton said. "She's a natural athlete.

"She jumps well and has great feel. She sets wonderfully. She's a great setter and hitter. We give her a lot of responsibility."

In helping lead the Warriors to their first final four appearance, Albury ranks first or second on the team in assists (144), blocks (18), digs (28) and kills (180). Her kills total is 88 more than any other Seven Rivers player.

"I think she's a great all-around athlete," Warriors setter Sherry Atwood said.

Albury started every match in 1999, but she had only mild success for a squad that went 6-15 in its first year against varsity competition. She was, quite honestly, not fundamentally sound.

"It was my first time with real hitting," Albury said. "I was trying new things, but I wasn't very good."

At a week-long summer camp, Albury received some extra instruction from Cari Martin of Gainesville Oak Hall -- one of the state's winningest coaches.

Martin stressed the fundamentals, while teaching Albury the finer points of bumping, serving, setting and spiking.

"(Martin) said maybe I could get a scholarship of some sorts," Albury said.

Albury has been a different player since that experience.

Every aspect of her game has improved, and her versatility allows Seven Rivers to run numerous offensive and defensive sets.

Albury's hitting is strong. Her serving is solid. And her net play is, at times, overpowering.

"If a ball comes near the net, she's so big and moves so well that she stops a lot of hits that otherwise would be errors," Hamilton said.

"She's always a factor in the middle. A lot of times, there isn't a player on the other team that can jump within a foot of how she can jump," he said.

Albury has much to learn, but at this point there isn't a soul at Seven Rivers not pleased with her progress.

"She's got a lot of potential," Atwood said. "She definitely can become (one of the state's top players).

"I think she'll get a full ride when she's a senior. She's really got the potential for that. In a couple of years she's really going to dominate."

Danielle Albury

SCHOOL: Seven Rivers Christian.

GRADE: Sophomore.

POSITIONS: Setter, middle hitter.

NOTABLE: Albury is a two-year starter. She also plays basketball for the Warriors. In last weekend's Class A, Region 1 championship, she had a team-high 15 kills.

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