With a tear in her eye and an occasional pause, Aiken volleyball coach Malynda Young reflected on the seventh-grader who had an inquisitive outlook toward volleyball.
That young athlete grew into a dominant force on the court, and as a senior, Natasha Dicks has been named The Augusta Chronicle’s Volleyball Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.
Dicks produced 569 kills at a rate of 4.1 kills per set, an improvement of 221 kills from her junior year. Her strong play helped lead Aiken to a second consecutive trip to the Class AAAA state championship, where she had 19 kills in the state match.
Although Young and Dicks hold a coach-player relationship, the two have seemingly climbed the ladder together. Young coached Dicks beginning in the seventh grade, and when Dicks moved to the varsity team in high school, Young became the varsity coach.
“Watching her mature as a person, it’s so great,” Young said. “I feel like I’m losing a child. We’re going to miss her leadership, her stepping up and leading a senior. ”
Dicks was moved to back row this season in an effort to be more involved in all aspects of the game. With the loss of key players from the state runners-up finish the previous season, Dicks and Tyler Smith took it upon themselves to become the main scoring threats.
The result was a major increase in kills, digs and aces. Dicks finished second on the team in digs with 333 and had 63 aces with a 91.3 percent serve-in rate.
“I felt like I had to be more of the go-to girl,” she said. “Coach gave us time to grow at back row and I became more comfortable as the season went on.”
“Natasha was incredible,” said Young, who has coached Aiken to three consecutive state championship appearances and a win in 2010. “She made up her mind she was not going out easy. I’ll miss seeing her play next year.”
While Young watched the program grow with each year she coached, she also saw Dicks progress with it. From consistently hitting the back wall on hits as a freshman to hitting booming kills and placing the ball better as a senior, Dicks became a force for Aiken.
“I realized there’s more than hitting,” Dicks said.
While Dicks considers a future as a track-and-field athlete in college, Young remains to consider the impact Dicks had on not only the program, but also her.
“Where did that seventh-grade girl go?” Young said. She paused, and then continued, “This is why I coach.”