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Duggan not prepared to turn her back on volleyball

L-E senior signs with St. Andrews Presbyterian College

Posted: May 24, 2011 10:38 a.m.
Updated: May 25, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Sometimes, nothing beats a family discussion at the dinner table to help a young person sort out a potential problem.

For Lugoff-Elgin senior Celia Duggan, one recent evening meal did more than just satisfy her appetite. It helped put the next four years of her life into perspective.

Duggan, a starting middle blocker for the Lady Demons’ volleyball team last fall, was at a crossroad. On the one hand, she could go to college and be a regular student, free of the responsibility of being a student-athlete. But there a part of her which craved playing volleyball at the next level.

A dinner table question and answer session with her parents helped lead Duggan to signing a national volleyball letter-of-intent with St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, N.C. Ironically, it was Presbyterian College in Clinton which she bypassed in order to continue playing volleyball.

"My parents have been constantly saying, ‘You need to get this done.’ I’m just glad to get this out of the way. I’m really excited about it," Duggan said in outlining how she arrived at her decision as to where she would attend college.

"We were sitting at dinner one night and they were saying, ‘If you went to Presbyterian College, what would you do?’ I said that I would probably regret not playing. Then, they said, ‘If you went to St. Andrews, what would your regrets be?’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t have any.’ That was kind of the deciding factor in my decision."

Judging by the smile on her face, Duggan was more than pleased with her choice to continue playing volleyball, a sport which she did not take up until her sophomore year in high school. After playing on the junior varsity squad for one year, she joined a club team after the season. Duggan was moved to the varsity as a junior, saw playing time for Susan Morris’ troops before getting more experience at the club level.

By the time the 2010 season rolled around, Duggan had earned a starting spot at middle hitter for the Lady Demons. What the senior brought to the squad was a desire for the game and other skills, some of which a coach cannot teach to a player.

"Celia’s strength is her athletic ability. She is a leaper who has a great vertical," said Morris, who stepped down as the program’s coach after leading the team into the 4A playoffs last fall. "

"She is quick and she is smart. With that athletic ability combined with her intelligence level, it makes for a great athlete."

Duggan, whose father, Jim, is a member of the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, showed Morris that she inherited plenty of her dad’s toughness. She exhibited that on more than one occasion while earning the respect and admiration of her coach in the process.

"Celia is a great kid. She’s one of those kids who, if you said to her, ‘Go run through that wall for me,’ she would go run through the wall for you," Morris said with a smile.

"I can’t tell you times when I’ve been in her face and have been angry and mad and she just looked at me and said, ‘Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am.’ She’s just a good kid … a really good kid."

Her competitive nature and drive to succeed led to Duggan’s decision to continue to play volleyball at the next level. After visiting the St. Andrews campus with her parents and meeting first-year Knights’ head coach Angela Franke, Duggan said her final decision as to where she wanted to attend college and playing volleyball at that school became crystal clear.

"I chose St. Andrews because they have the best people," she said, matter-of-factly. "While we were touring the school, we would walk by people and everybody would say, ‘Hi.’ The coach was also the best one that I talked to.

"They just have the nicest campus. It was just a good fit."

With that hard decision now behind her, Duggan understands that things will be tougher at the college level where the game will change from that which she played in high school. In addition, spending most of her time with her new teammates, away from home and in a dormitory, will tend to make for a tight-knit group on the court.

"I think the biggest difference (between high school and college volleyball) is that you are going to have to have a lot more dedication than in high school," she said. "There will be harder hits, a lot tougher to dig. I’m going to need to work on my jumping to block shots. I’m expecting to play against some big girls.

"I also think that we will be closer as a team and will be more like sisters, than just teammates. I think everything is going to be on a bigger scale and will be more fun."

Morris said due to the quicker pace of play in college, more attention is paid to a middle blocker, which Duggan plays. That spot, the former L-E head coach said, is the most important blocker for all college teams.

While it will be a bit of an adjustment for Duggan, at first, Morris said she expects her former player to make a smooth transition to the college game while being part of a solid program at St. Andrews.

"Celia got a late start in volleyball," she said. "I think she will have to continue to work on her defense if she wants the opportunity to play some back row. She needs as much experience as she can get because they play at a faster level in college.

"I know they play in a good conference and face good teams. It seems like (Franke) is a nice coach who has played volleyball and has coached before. I think this will be a good situation for Celia."

As for her take on moving to play at a larger level, Duggan compared it to the move which she and her L-E teammates took this past fall in moving from the state’s AAA ranks to 4A. Just like that change, Duggan said there are some unknowns as to what she can expect to see in playing volleyball in college.

One thing she is certain of, though, is that she made the right choice of both a school and playing volleyball. On this day, Celia Duggan’s mind was free and clear. And, there was more than a bit of optimism as to what the future holds for her at St. Andrews.

"It’s a lot of fun because, over the past year, I got used to playing a lot and playing with fun people," she said of this day and her decision. "I’m just going to enjoy being able to play volleyball.

"I’ve been very stressed out about trying to make this decision. There were a couple other schools I was looking at, but this one ended up being the best fit for me."

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