AIKEN — No matter how far away the back wall was, Natasha Dicks seemed to hit it.
But as she became a freshman and sophomore, the powerful and loud connections on the court started going down to the floor.
This year, Dicks often left opponents helpless.
“When she hits it and gets it right, there’s not a whole lot anybody can do,” Aiken volleyball coach Malynda Young said. “There’s not. You might happen to be right in front of it and stick your hands out. It just travels too fast to get to, and it’s too hard.”
Dicks was just one player to star for the Hornets; Monica Cardona, Meredith Clemmens, McKenna Dyer and Anna Tovo were some of the other leaders for the state runner-up.
As a junior, Dicks had a team-best 348 kills and added 66 digs and 22 blocks to earn The Augusta Chronicle’s Volleyball Player of the Year honors.
Dicks, always one to turn heads with her power – Young said she needed to see only one hit to know Dicks wouldn’t be a setter for her – has bettered her defense and ball placement, working with a talented squad that often left foes scrambling trying to keep up with the attack.
“It is so fun,” Dicks said. “There are so many options, and it’s not boring. The options are just endless.”
Besides her echoing kills on the court, Dicks is also pacing the field in another sport.
Dicks won the 2011 Class AAAA state title in the triple jump when she posted a 39’ 4”, and Young said she’s seen Dicks hit the bottom of the net with her shins.
Her athletic ability has never been a concern. Dicks said her mental game has improved more than her skills in recent years.
“I used to be like, ‘Just set me the ball, I’m going to hit this. I’m going to get the point, and that’s how it’s going to be on stats.’ ”
Now Dicks is the one to point to a teammate playing better than she is, while at the same time knowing when it’s time for her to get a set.
Though Aiken fell just short of repeating as the state champion, the five-set loss to Hillcrest that felt like a “smack in the face” reinforced Dicks’ belief that hard work will be the difference next season.
It’s the same work ethic that now has her often finding the floor in play instead of off the back wall.
“The fact that we made it to state, people always remind me that it’s a really good shot and not a lot of people get that chance,” Dicks said. “It really puts Aiken on the map. It lets people know that we are here and we’re just as good as any (AAAA) team.”