|SECTION IV VOLLEYBALL: OWEGO'S THOMAS EARNS WELL-DESERVED HONOR (9 PHOTOS) (2019-01-08)
BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
Owego’s Grace Thomas was recently named the Section IV Player of the
Year by the New York Volleyball Coaches Association. It’s one of several
honors the Indians’ senior setter has earned during her career and she
doesn’t take it for granted.
“It means a lot to me, because I’ve
worked really hard,” she said. “I don’t look for having recognition like
that. I just work hard all the time, but it’s really nice to know that
my hard work paid off and was able to rewarded as the Section IV Player
of the Year. I’m honored and thankful for the coaches to be voting for
Thomas, who handed out 672 assists this past season and has been on two state championship and two state runner-up teams, is a two-time first-team all-state selection and has been chosen for the
all-tournament team at the state championships twice. She has
also been named STAC all-conference three times and was selected to
the Bill Mott Invitational all-tournament team at Windsor this past
season. Thomas was also pocked as the Block O "unsung hero" award winner last year
“because of her unselfish play and personality,” according to Owego
head coach Brittney Race.
“Grace is the kind of athlete that you
can tell anything to and she will turn around and do it immediately,”
Race said. “The things she can make happen on the court wouldn't happen
without her physical and mental abilities. She dedicates herself to
whatever she is doing whether it is volleyball or something else. She is
a hard worker who not only has physical skill but mental strengths as
well. She is one of the smartest athletes I know and have had the
pleasure of coaching. Grace knows the game inside and out and there is
nothing she doesn't understand or can't do.”
Much of Thomas’
success on the court comes from the amount of time she dedicates to the
sport, but she also credits her teammates and coaches for helping her
achieve this most recent accomplishment.
“Without them I wouldn’t
be the player I am today, especially Brittney Race,” she said. “She’s
the reason I am the volleyball player I am today and I’m really grateful
“I think that she pushes us hard and I appreciate
that, because once she pushes us hard she knows that we’re better than
we were, so then she knows our potential that we have, which I really
like. It’s kind of like if she’s not saying anything, it’s not a good
thing. I like the constant talk because it keeps me involved in the
game, so I really do like that. That’s the type of coach that I like.”
Thomas says the other players on the team are dedicated as well.
definitely works hard,” she said. “They may not be ‘the best,’ but they
work every single day to be better, which is really great because you
don’t want to be someone who just doesn’t work hard and kind of accepts
it. You want to be someone who is like, ‘I’m going to get it this time
and I’m going to get it next year.’ That’s kind of the drive we have. We
can always do something better, so that’s good for them, and I like
that because it’s a great team chemistry that we have. We all want to be
better, which is good.”
Thomas also acknowledges the support she receives from her family.
support I get at home is definitely very helpful to be able to have the
work ethic and hard work and dedication that I do and I thank my family
for that,” she said. “My dad and my mom are very supportive parents and
my siblings, my brother and sister, are very supportive too, she said
of her parents, Todd and Darlene, and her siblings, Courtney and Zach.
My grandparents (Lloyd and Mickey Thomas) are also very supportive. They
come to everything and they’re always there for me and I really
Thomas; work ethic and success has made her a leader on and off the court. And she embraces it with dignity.
“Being a setter, leadership comes with the role, because you’re coordinating everything that’s going on on the court,” she said.
That leadership role has made her teammates comfortable in approaching her for advice off the court as well.
think that people can come up to me if they need something or if they
have a question. I feel like I might be the one that they come to, which
is nice to know, in case they need help or something.”
The team members have a pretty good relationship off the court, according to Thomas.
time I see someone in the hall, we always say hi to each other, we
always smile at each other, and we like to do things with each other,”
During the season the teammates participate in
activities, such as a movie night, and even though they may do other
things separate from one another during the off-season, Thomas said they
do keep in touch occasionally.
Some of the team members
participate in other sports, like Evee Coleman, who is playing a key
role on Owego’s girls basketball team which is currently 10-0 and ranked
sixth in the state in Class B.
Thomas sees a connection in the success of both programs.
think the players that make up a good team definitely are great
teammates to other team members, even if it’s not volleyball, like
basketball. Evee is a great teammate and she works really hard and I’m
100-percent positive that she’s doing that in basketball too. She’s like
a great all-around athlete.”
Thomas devotes a lot of time and
effort to volleyball, which gives her plenty of opportunities to hone
her skills, not just on the high school squad, but during travel ball as
“I do volleyball all year round,” she said. “I usually have two weeks off of volleyball for the whole year.”
She also frequents the workout room, to participate in workouts greed toward helping her stay in volleyball shape.
the high school season, which usually begins the second week in August
and ends, most of the time for Owego, at the state tournament the third
weekend in November, Thomas heads into the travel season, competing for
the Whirlwind Volleyball Club. The club season runs until late June,
when she gets a couple weeks off before starting the summer season of
Thomas is currently playing with Owego teammate Kaylee
Kelly. Last year, it was Thomas, Kelly and Owego grads McKenzie Hart
and Brinn Shaughnessy playing together. Hart and Shaughnessy just
completed their freshman seasons with Nazareth College and SUNY
Likewise, Thomas looks forward to the possibility of taking her talents to the next level.
I get accepted to Geneseo, I think I want to go there and hopefully
play volleyball,” she said. Thomas hopes to become a veterinarian.
the victories and awards are nice, but the greatest tribute to Thomas
is the fact she has become a role model for aspiring young volleyball
players to follow.
“There is no one like Grace,” Race said. “She
is a really amazing person and I truly hope that my daughter is just
like her when she grows up. Grace is the most unselfish person I have
met and that is what has made her such a great setter. Setters don't
often get a lot of glory because they are just the assist to the kill
and if you can't get past that fact then you won't be a good setter.
Setting is a position that makes everyone else look good and Grace was
able to do that because of her unselfish personality. Grace would do
anything for anyone and she was the teammate that everyone could go to.
Even our young players look up to Grace!”
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