In a lot of ways, Emily Price’s career in volleyball has mimicked the game itself. Both could be described as intense and fast-paced, with a series of ups and downs.
One of the peak moments for the Owen High School grad came mid-November, when she signed to play for the Montreat College Cavaliers, guaranteeing that her volleyball story would continue to be written here in the Swannanoa Valley.
Although Owen and Montreat are separated by only a few miles, the journey from one to another was far from easy for Price, despite her family's history with the sport and her own involvement from about age six.
She struggled in her first season at Owen Middle School, despite being taller than many of her classmates. She had a good understanding of the game, "but I just didn’t have the physical skills,” she said. Nobody wanted to be her partner. She described herself as "the worst one on the team.”
Price spent the summer between middle school and high school (and all during high school) playing for Biltmore Volleyball Academy, an organization that promotes the sport in the area by providing advanced training. Practicing every day, going to tournaments every weekend, "I was living, eating and sleeping volleyball,” she said.
She entered high school a completely different player, realizing her goal of making the varsity team (though she didn't start).
The Warlassies had a different coach each of the four seasons Price played for them.
“The girls on our Owen teams ... basically coached each other," Price said. "We were the ones really able to offer each other constructive criticism. We all took on extra responsibilities. We were all on the same page about wanting to get better every year.”
Price graduated from Owen last spring, months after a serious respiratory nearly ended her playing career. She missed the summer travel ball season this year. All the scholarships she'd hoped for "went away," she said.
Recovering from her illness, Price looked for other ways to utilize her passion for the game. She learned that Owen Middle School needed a coach.
“I’m under the age of 21, so I could not be the head coach of the team,” Price said. “They needed the head coach to be a staff at the school. They hired Ashley Henderson, who is my brother’s teacher at the school, and she brought me on to help.”
Henderson had no experience in volleyball and handled more of the administrative role, according to Price, who began the process of teaching middle schoolers about the game.
“I didn’t know what I was doing at first,” she said. “But that experience was awesome. They learned so much, and I learned so much.”
Price focused on teaching the fundamentals of the game.
“They improved tremendously over the course of the season,” she said. “Most of my starters had never even played the game before.”
Coaching provided her with a fresh perspective.
"I would think 'Oh my gosh, that's why my coach was telling me that' or 'Now I see why that was important to my coach,'" she said. "I was able to see things from the other side, and that helped me see the game a little differently."
Having regained her strength after the illness, Price started entertaining questions from friends and family about her future in volleyball. Price told them about Dottie Shuman, her mentor and a professor at Montreat College. Shuman introduced her to Kristy Kamer, the volleyball coach at Montreat. Kamer invited her to practice with the Caveliers, something that made Price excited and nervous.
"I hadn't played in a year," she said. "We played a scrimmage my first day."