Three Wildcats Sign To Play College Sports

Jonathan Schwab
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RC's Graceon Armstrong signs her letter of intent to play volleyball at Bridgewater College while fellow seniors Emma Lawson (left) and Savannah McDaniel watch. Lawson signed to play volleyball at Freed-Hardeman University, and McDaniel signed to play softball at Patrick Henry Community College. (Jonathan Schwab photo)


Wednesday, Jan. 22 –  Three Rockbridge County High School seniors signed letters on Friday to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level.

Volleyball player Graceon Armstrong signed with Division III school Bridgewater College, teammate Emma Lawson signed with Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee, and softball player Savannah McDaniel signed with Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville.

The signings took place in front of hundreds of students, faculty, coaches and family members in the RC Commons, with the signees wearing their college t-shirts.

Armstrong has racked up many accolades during her high school year while helping lead the Wildcats to three consecutive Valley District championships, along with two Region 3C titles and two Class 3 state quarterfinal appearances, all firsts for the Wildcats. She played volleyball all four years and was a starter for the last three years and co-captain her junior and senior year.

As a middle and outside hitter, Armstrong racked up 361 kills, 41 solo blocks, 54 block assists and 32 aces this season. She was named Region 3C player of the year after her junior season and was selected to the all-district team three times, the all-region first team twice, the all-region second team once, the all-state first team once, and the all-state second team once.

Armstrong said she chose Bridgewater because “it’s close to home, and the team was really super close. I just really felt like I was at home when I got to campus.” She said being able to continue to play volleyball while furthering her education “is really exciting. It means a lot to my family.”

Complimenting Armstrong, Amanda McCoy, who has been RC’s head coach for four years, said, “It’s been awesome to see her grow in terms of knowledge of the sport but also as a person and as a leader and a two-year captain for us. I think she’ll definitely be able to help the Bridgewater team early on, and she’ll be very successful. We’re very proud of her.”

“When she enters the collegiate level, she’ll have a lot to learn, but she’ll also be really good,” McCoy added. “She’s had great support from her teammates, her family. She has a very hard work ethic, and it’s going to pay dividends for her.”

Armstrong gave credit to McCoy for helping her grow and improve. “I would not be the volleyball player I am today without Coach McCoy,” she said. “She definitely stepped up my game to the college level and got me mentally and physically prepared to play at a higher level.”

At Bridgewater, Armstrong plans to study in the medical field.

Lawson, who has been with the Wildcats for the past two years after transferring from Maryville High School in Tennessee, is excited to play for Freed-Hardeman, the Henderson, Tenn. school that is part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I level.

She said the school appealed to her because “it’s a nice environment,” and her sister, Brittleigh, is a sophomore there and a member of the cross country and track teams.

As a junior, Lawson was an outside hitter for the Wildcats, but she switched to the defense-focused libero position for her senior season and was named to the all-district second team. On Lawson taking on the libero position, McCoy said, “She really embraced that very early. Her work ethic is fantastic. She’s in the gym all the time, doing the extra work that she needs in order to be prepared for an opportunity to play.”

Lawson said McCoy has helped her improve greatly. She said she’ll miss the friends that she’s made at RC.

On the softball field, McDaniel received a full scholarship from Patrick Henry Community College. She said she chose to go there because it has a veterinary studies program and is a feeder school to Virginia Tech. She also looks forward to playing on the team with former travel softball teammate Makayla Miller, who is a freshman.

A center fielder, McDaniel hit .320 with three home runs and 18 RBIs. In her last games, her batting average was .462. She helped RC reach the district finals as an underdog last year.

Her high school coach, Keith Ruley, said McDaniel “has a great skill set. She can play infield or outfield. Probably a natural centerfielder. She reads the ball off the bat really well and glides to the ball. Savannah faced six Division I pitchers last year, and that will prepare her for PHCC. Savannah will be an asset to the PHCC program.”

McDaniel said Ruley and her travel softball coach, Terry Palmer, both “pushed me to reach my potential.”


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