For as nice a person Layla Grace is off the volleyball court, she brings a commanding presence on it.
The athletic 5-foot-9 middle blocker provides an intimidating presence in the center of Dadeville’s lineup. Behind the scenes at practice, she’s instructing fellow attackers on the finer points of hitting, blocking and serving.
“I don’t think money can buy that,” Dadeville coach Ashley Henderson said. “It’s just something that is a characteristic that’s learned at home, that they bring with them and that coaches really yearn for. The peer-to-peer experience sometimes teaches them more than what a coach can.”
Grace has developed into an anchor for the Tigers’ volleyball team over the course of her high school career, and now in her senior season, she’s looking for a strong cap to her time at Dadeville.
“I just try to make people happy,” Grace said. “Sometimes players get down on themselves, and I’ve been in that position a lot. I just try to keep them happy.”
Grace took up volleyball her freshman year at Dadeville, a year she spent testing different sports to see which ones she’d like to be involved in during her time as a Tiger.
All three she tried she stuck with: volleyball, basketball and track.
Sticking to the netted on-court sport, Grace’s height, leaping ability and strength made her an obvious choice for the middle blocker position. She landed first-team All-County honors for her play there at the Tallapoosa County Championship tournament earlier this season, a three-team battle that the Tigers won.
“It was really easy,” Grace said about becoming a middle blocker. “All I had to do was jump, just grow into it being the athletic person that I am.”
Henderson is in her first year at the helm of Dadeville’s program, but even since the summer she’s seen Grace grow.
Her game is to the point now where she can instruct others.
“Layla is making her attacks, she’s leading this team, she’s helping the other girls learn how to transition off the net and how to approach the ball, building confidence for the younger players,” Henderson said.
Grace’s value as a leader can be seen most prominently in her sister, Paris Grace.
Paris Grace plays for Dadeville’s junior varsity team and relies on her sibling to learn everything she can about attacking, blocking and hitting.
“She’s given me so much advice,” the younger Grace sister said. “She’s been pushing me on hitting, because I don’t like to jump when it’s time to hit but she comes over there and makes me do it.”
The duo both expressed joy in their ability to play together this season, their final chance to do so on the volleyball court before Layla Grace graduates.
“It means a lot for me to play with her because it’s her last year,” Paris Grace said. “It’s really gonna hurt me once she leaves.”
Before that time, however, Layla Grace said there is still more she wishes to accomplish.
It starts by winning the area, which the Tigers could be poised to do. Dadeville has started the season 4-0 including its two victories at the Tallapoosa County Championship.
From there, Grace hopes she and her team can make a deep run into the Alabama Class 3A state playoffs.
“I have a lot of confidence in our team, we’ve started out really, really good,” Grace said.
She isn’t sure where she’ll attend college yet, although she does want to play volleyball wherever she ends up.
“I’m just keeping my options open, applying to colleges right now,” Grace said. “I don’t really know what I want to do, but I know I want to play volleyball.”