AIKEN — When Aiken volleyball coach Malynda Young first watched Anna Tovo play as an eighth grader, Young experienced a feeling of joy for her program.
“I remember watching her play in one of our junior varsity tournaments when she was in the eighth grade and thought, ‘I’m glad she’ll be at Aiken High,’” Young said.
Four years later, Tovo helped lead the Lady Hornets to another deep playoff run and has been named The Augusta Chronicle’s Volleyball Player of the Year.
Tovo experienced a level of individual and team success unrivaled in the area during her four years. She reached the Class AAAA State Championship her first three years, including winning a state title as a freshman in 2010, and another Lower State finals appearance in 2013.
Tovo capped her high school career with 590 kills and 426 digs this season, earning All-State, Region 5-AAAA Player of the Year and Honorable Mention All-American honors.
Aiken fell short of a fourth consecutive state finals appearance, losing 3-2 to Wando in the Lower State finals, but Tovo said the team surpassed expectations.
“We all tried every game, tried our hardest, and worked really hard to get where we were, so I think it was a successful year,” Tovo said. “We did better than anyone expected us to do, anyway, so I think we had a good year.”
Athleticism was first on the list of attributes Young listed for Tovo. Young said her determination to improve sparked her success and served as an example for teammates.
“She was not only athletic, she was an athlete,” Young said. “She was willing to work. It was all about improving Anna. She was willing to put the time and effort in to do that and she did. She’s a natural athlete, but she’s also earned a lot of what she’s got. She’s adjusted along the way to make herself better.”
That athleticism and work ethic were needed when Tovo suffered a setback following her sophomore season. She tore her ACL during a club game and would miss most of her junior season, not returning until October. She came back strong and was crucial for Aiken in the playoffs.
Before returning to success, the rehab process and sitting out for an extended period of time changed Tovo as a player.
“Being able to sit on the bench, it gave me a different perspective of the game, so I see more on the court now when I’m playing,” she said. “Before, I would just hit the ball. Now I’ve become a smarter player.”
Tovo combined her new outlook and added versatility to put up monstrous numbers throughout her senior season. She carried the team at times while playing around the floor, contributing at every angle of the court.
“She is very versatile,” Young said. “One of the things I was very impressed (with) even in the eighth grade was her passing. If you can pass in the eighth grade like she was doing, you know you’re going to be a player. For her position, she needs to be able to hit and pass. She did a good job of both.”
Tovo continues to ponder her options at the college level. She said she intends to play somewhere, but the destination hasn’t been determined. For now, Tovo can look back at a high school career that helped shape the player she is today.
“I’ve had a great time here,” she said. “I’ve been on the varsity team four years, so starting off I was the youngest and really timid, but I still knew the girls. I’ve become a better leader than I was from freshman year. I’ve become a bigger voice.”