Sarah Billiard was in the Covenant Day gym waiting to attend basketball camp, when the varsity volleyball coach, Heather Mills, suggested that Sarah try volleyball camp that summer.
Billiard, who had never played on a volleyball team, was totally focused on basketball.
“I was a die-hard basketball player and was not interested in volleyball at all,” said Billiard, whose older sister, Hannah was on the Covenant Day volleyball team. “But Coach Mills basically said, ‘Just give it a try and if you like it, great. If not, no big deal.’ So, I decided to go to the Covenant Day camp and then ended up trying out for the team because my mom basically made me. It’s crazy how it all started.”
Mills said, “Basketball was her first sport for sure, and I knew that. For some reason that day when I saw her in the gym in her basketball stuff, I just went up to her and said, ‘You can come to my volleyball camp for free this summer. If you like it, great. If not, no problem, it’s just a camp.”
Sarah Billiard made the Covenant Day volleyball team that year and quickly excelled.
She made the Lions’ high school varsity team as a eighth-grader, and was a major contributor with 131 kills and 30 blocks on a team (22-11) that got to the NCISAA 3A state quarterfinals.
While Sarah Billiard’s basketball skills helped her make an easier transition to the volleyball court, she says Hannah’s tutelage was, and still is, a huge key to her success. Hannah Billiard is now playing college volleyball at Berry College in Georgia.
“I probably wouldn’t even be playing volleyball if it wasn’t for Hannah,” said Sarah, who is still a standout for the Covenant Day basketball team. She averaged 18 points and 16 rebounds last season.
“She has taught me so much about the mental, emotional and physical parts of the game. Even now, we talk about what to do in given situations on the court.”
Sarah has been a major player for a Lions’ team that has gone 56-11 over the past two seasons, with back-to-back appearances in the NCISAA 3A state championship, where they finished as runner-up to rival, Charlotte Country Day each year.
Billiard had her best overall season as a sophomore, registering 328 kills, 215 digs, 39 blocks and 35 aces to earn all-state honors.
Her sophomore year got even better in the spring (April 2015), when she committed to play volleyball at University of Virginia.
Going into her junior season at Covenant Day, Billiard knew her team would have to take on a new challenge with nine of her 15 teammates from the 2014 squad gone, including six to graduation and two transfers.
While Billiard plays a major role, leading the team in kills (455), aces (59) and blocks (45), the 6-foot, outside hitter is quick to give credit to her teammates.
Mills also has gotten major contributions from junior setter, Kristen Seibert (773 assists, 44 aces) and senior libero, Charissa Coleman (497 digs, now has over 1,500 career digs), who are tri-captains with Billiard. Seniors Corrie Nassar and Erica Van Dusen as well as juniors Carly Brower and Katie Younce also have played key roles.
The Lions finished 9-1 in the CISAA play, to win the conference title in only their second year in that league.
“To win the conference title in our second year was huge,” said Mills. “We’ve played in a lot of big pressure matches, and I feel like we are prepared more than ever for the postseason.”
Mills said that Covenant Day wants to get back to the state championship game, they will need everyone, but Billiard must play a lead role.
“I love the pressure situations, because I want to help make the big points for my team,” Billiard said. “I know Kristen (Seibert) is going to put a flawless ball up for me, and I just want to hit it as hard as I can. We definitely feel the pressure in a tight game, but I think it just motivates us to push ourselves to get better.”
The playoffs start this week -- NCISAA 3A state quarter- and semifinals on Oct 30 at Charlotte Latin. The championship game would be played Oct. 31 at Covenant Day.
“Just knowing that the championship game is in our place is all the motivation we need,” Billiard said. “We have to be playing in that game.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.