Donoho middle hitter Corey Phillis transitioned from a key role player in 2011 to a team leader as a junior the following season. Donoho won the Class 1A state championship both years.
Phillis entered the 2013 season as one of two seniors on the roster, the other being Riley Segrest, and although Donoho was unable to win its third consecutive Class 1A state championship, Phillis learned a lot about life.
Phillis was named The Anniston Star’s Class 1A-2A All-County Player of the Year after leading Donoho with 591 kills — a 49.8 kill percentage — and 64 aces.
“Since we didn’t have a feeling of losing in the past, this is a good learning experience moving on,” Phillis said. “Toward the beginning I felt more pressure than at the end. Coach (Janice) Slay was very adamant in letting us know that anything we did she’d never be angry as long as it was the best that we could do. I think Riley and I really took that to heart and just tried to play the best that we could.”
Donoho only returned three starters from the 2012 state championship team, two being Phillis and Segrest. Slay said the seniors leadership was “priceless.”
“Corey was the out-right aggressor that teams focused on and was really the one that was noticeable — and Corey handled that pressure extremely well,” Slay said. “She’s kind of one of those “take all comers” type of players. That example with a player that excels on front row and back row makes her one of the only players in the county that can do that.”
However, what set Phillis apart was her defensive play. The senior, who plays libero for Club Sting out of Birmingham, had 606 digs and 158 blocks this season.
“I’m not tall enough to play front row for (Team Sting), and if I play in college it’ll probably be back row, too. It’s a lot of fun,” Phillis said. “Of course, I like to hit and score points, but it’s more of an inner victory to take away a big kill from the other team.”
Slay said Phillis’ defensive play was bigger than that, saying Donoho couldn’t have done what it did on defense without her.
“Corey really pushed the other players on the team to be their best all the time on the back row,” she said. “She literally was the coach on the court. Defensively and verbally, Corey commanded that control on the court and continued with her actions.”
Phillis plans to continue her volleyball career at the next level. In early April, she finds out if she’s been accepted to Dartmouth. If so, Phillis said she’s been told she has a spot on the team. Dartmouth doesn’t give athletic scholarships.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star