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In lofty company

Speaks, jersey find their way onto Camden High School’s Wall of Honor

Posted: May 10, 2018 9:59 a.m.
Updated: May 11, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Johnny Deal/Bowtie Photography

MAGGIE SPEAKS ADDED HER name and professional volleyball jersey to Camden High School’s Wall of Honor during a ceremony held last Thursday.

Maggie Speaks, more than anybody, knew how big a deal it was.

As she looked up at her framed red number 3 Makedones Axiou jersey being placed alongside game jerseys worn by other Camden High graduates who played professional sports, Speaks could not help but think about the company she was joining.

With parents who are both teachers at Camden High School, a father, a grandfather, a great-uncle and two uncles who were all stellar student-athletes for the Bulldogs, the 5-foot-10 setter for her Greek professional volleyball team is well-versed in the school’s athletic history. A few steps away from the commons area, in which the framed jerseys hang, is the Michael G. Culp Court on which Speaks player her home volleyball matches en route to an all-state career. 

She was all-too-familiar with what became her high school home court from having spent many an hour having played recreation league ball or, watching CHS basketball games and volleyball matches in that gym as a child. Nobody attending her jersey-hanging ceremony needed to give her a refresher on what this day meant.

“I grew up at Camden High School and, I grew up in that gym,” Speaks said. “Always seeing those jerseys on the wall was something that you idolized being around there. It was kind of a surreal thing seeing mine name up there alongside some of Camden’s best. It was a really cool experience.”

Speaks became the seventh CHS graduate and the first female to have her jersey placed on the Wall of Honor.

A 2012 CHS graduate, Speaks signed with and enjoyed a four-year career at North Carolina State University. In her senior campaign, she was a 2016 All-ACC second team selection. She ended her Wolfpack career with the second-most assists (3,240) in the program’s rally-scoring era and fourth best in program history in digs (644), kills (322), blocks (210) and with 66 service aces.

Those numbers opened several professional doors for Speak who last spring, traveled to play in a series of tournaments in Europe which garnered the attention of Makedones Axiou, which signed her to her first professional contract but only after Speaks first donned a Team USA jersey and played in last year’s World University Games in Taiwan.

Now, Speaks is on the move again. For the second time, she will wear a red, white and blue Team USA jersey as she represents our country in the 12th annual Binh Dien Cup in Tamy Ky, Vietnam which starts Saturday and runs through May 20. The eight-team event includes both professional and national teams competing. 

After that tournament is over, Speaks said she is not certain of the next stop in her professional volleyball journey. What she does know is that she will, in all likelihood, not be returning to her former team in the port city of Thessaloniki, Greece.

“I’ve had quite a few offers and I’m trying to keep all my options open and see what other offers I might get after Vietnam,” she said of what lies ahead for her professionally. 

“I’m just trying to keep an open mind. I’ll probably be making my decision toward the end of May or, the beginning of June, depending on what I hear from teams.”

Speaks is hoping to take a step up in her professional career after having played for Makedones Axiou, which plays in the Level 2 (out of 3) Greek Professional League. Possible, if not preferable, landing spots for her would be more competitive settings in Central Europe.

“My goal is to play in France or, Germany. A lot of (USA) national team girls play in those countries,” she said. “In my career, I tried to set a path where, each year, I want to move up as much as I can. I think my next step could be to play in the Germany, France or, Switzerland area.

“I’m just, gradually, trying to work my way up and make it as high as I can in professional volleyball.”

There were five teams in the Greek professional league, Speaks said, which were equivalent to or, better than NCAA Division I programs and those squads usually had American players who played Division I volleyball before heading to Greece.

Makedones Axiou saw its season come to an end in the semifinals of the league’s playoffs in losing to Olympiakos, perennially the top team in Greece which had earlier won the European championship. During the season, Speaks was selected as the most valuable player for the league’s 19th round.

Speaks said she became a better player in having faced professional competition for a season.

“I think I improved a lot,” she said. “We still ran a fast offense which was something I was used to because we ran that offense in college. It’s different though, because you can’t have as many substitutions so you have to be more strategic as to where you block. You also use the back row more as part of the offense, which I had never done before. It took me a while to incorporate that into my game.”

Playing a season in Greece, Maggie Speaks said, allowed her to get her feet wet in professional volleyball. The experience was one which she said was beneficial to her personally and professionally.

“It was interesting,” she said of her stay in Greece’s second-largest city which has more than one million residents in the metropolitan area. “There was no real adjustment period. I flew there, we immediately started playing and, I was living there. We, there was myself and one other American player, were on our own. 

“It’s a very different culture … very laid back. The food was great and the area was beautiful. It took a while to get used to but, it was a good experience, overall.”

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