Former Lady Indian finds success on college courts
Published 10:25 am Friday, January 30, 2015
Though she loved playing volleyball at Southampton High School and for the Blackwater club team, the Zuni native hadn’t really considered playing in college. But in the end, Samantha Billups was really glad she accepted that call to play for NCAA Division III Hollins University in Lynchburg.
For her efforts coming off the bench, Billups, who was second on the team in assists and had the sixth-most digs, was named to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference’s All-Sportsmanship Team.
“I was really surprised, as that’s usually an award that seniors get,” the freshman said. “I felt like I represented the school well, and I’m just honored to be a part of it.
“To be able to play in my first year and make good friends really made it all worth it, but then to get an award on top of that was icing on the cake.”
The volleyball program is in its third year after having been defunct for a while, and Billups said they are still rebuilding. The team went 5-24 this past season.
“Even though we were not exactly undefeated, we still had a good time,” Billups said.
Being a part of the building process isn’t so bad — it’s a challenge. Billups played almost exclusively as setter in high school, but when she got to Hollins, she made a point to learn other positions.
“Here, there were older girls, and I was new. I knew I had to work and become a more well-rounded player,” she said. “I wanted to help the team wherever they needed it.”
For that, she was awarded more playing time than the other freshmen, and she did end up starting a few games due to injuries for other players.
“I didn’t expect to,” Billups said. “I was there to play the best I could, not try to take over. I love playing volleyball, and I’m glad the coaches thought I could help out.”
She ended up playing most of the time out of the position she was used to. They moved Billups to the back row, where she got to play a lot of defense, diving for the ball to keep it in play.
“I’d always liked it, but I never had a chance to play it because in high school I was needed to be a setter,” she said. “But I had so much fun playing back row.”
For athletics, Billups is a freshman, but she’s really more of a sophomore academically, as she was able to dual enroll and graduate from Paul D. Camp Community College while at Southampton High School. She said she owes a lot of her success to her coaches from Southampton County, Jack Schwolow and Chad Brock.
Schwolow was the reason she was able to make the Hollins team, as he had invited coaches to watch her at Blackwater volleyball games. Billups started JV with Brock and when she transitioned to varsity, so did he.
“I feel really blessed to have had the coaches that I did, and to be able to get this far,” Billups said. “It was just something I decided to try in middle school, and they were with me every step of the way.”
Her crowning moment from high school, however, was something different. It was getting to play with someone who she said was better than her.
“My sister made varsity her freshman year,” she said of Jenna Billups. “I got to play my junior and senior years with my sister. That’s one thing I will remember most from high school.”
During that senior year, Billups made the decision to come to Hollins. It was Jan. 1, to be exact. She got a call from the coach saying that if she wanted to play volleyball, that she had a spot on the team.
“I said, ‘OK, I will be there,’” Billups said. “I was excited to be able to play a sport that I love, not a lot of people get to do that in college. And I get to go to a good school. It’s a win-win.”
It was also a good transition into college life.
“It was kind of like a buffer into college,” Billups said. “I had to come early and got to meet a bunch of great people. By the time classes started, I had already made friends.”
She’s majoring in communications, while getting minors in studio arts and business. As far as what she’s going to do with that, Billups said she’s still deciding.
“I never thought I’d major in communications, but I took a 101 class, loved it, and I’m taking more classes in the spring,” she said.
Considering the classes, she said they’ve been great.
“The professors are awesome,” Billups said. “I feel like a person here, and not a number. Everyone knows each other’s names, and that helps me do better. If I were at a bigger school, I wouldn’t have felt that connection.
“I am in a happy place. I’m 100 percent sure I made the right decision coming here.”