VALDOSTA – A Valdosta High School student has risen through the ranks to become number one in the nation for “digs.”
Isa Kassum may only have three and a half years experience in the sport, but that hasn't stopped her from making a name for herself, garnering several team awards and now earning this recognition.
A “dig” is a defensive play that prevents the ball from touching the ground after the opponent has spiked or served the ball over the net. Kassum compared the play to being similar to a goalie in soccer.
Isa's mother, J.L. Lomax teacher Georgina Arnold, said they were unaware of her status until they were told they should check her stats online at MaxPreps.com. It was then they found that she had managed to top even lifelong players across the nation for the play.
“It's amazing,” Arnold said. “I am very proud and like to brag on her.”
When Kassum first started playing volleyball, she had no idea how to play but, while attending St. Johns Catholic School, a team was formed and she volunteered to give it a shot.
What she found was a sport she not only could thrive out, but one she found to just simply be fun.
“I'd done soccer and basketball but I have asthma so running back and forth could be hard,” Kassum said. “I enjoy volleyball a lot more.”
At Valdosta High, Kassum is under the coaching of Anna McCall.
McCall has a unique story of her own. A native of Iceland, McCall played on their national team until coming to Valdosta State University to play there.
A few girls had petitioned to get volleyball added as a sport to Valdosta City Schools and McCall was contacted to coach it.
“It's been great to see it from the beginning to now,” McCall said.
She's been able to watch girls come in who have never played the sport before flourish into seasoned players through swift improvement and passion.
In the six years since the inception of the team, McCall has noticed that, where there were only a handful of volleyball teams in the area at that time, there have been many more added inside the county and in outlying counties.
It's a sport, like so many others, that can translate to positive habits not only for students not, but in the future.
“It teaches teamwork, being considerate, working hard and not giving up,” McCall said. “The learning is endless with team sports.”
The team had a girl be recruited for college play, which is the route Kassum hopes she'll be able to take, eyeing Tulane University in Louisiana. It's there she hopes to play on the volleyball team and study to be a field epidemiologist after she graduates high school in 2022.
McCall called Kassum's national status “amazing,” adding that Kassum is a “key player” on the team.
McCall added that volleyball season will begin again in August and that she encourages the community, whether they have kids playing or not, to come to a game.
“A lot of people have come to a game and been shocked how interesting and exciting it is.”