Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Benching fuels dominant senior season for Lovejoy outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu -- SportsDayHS's 2012 area volleyball player of the year
LUCAS — Not everybody gets a second chance. Ebony Nwanebu didn’t waste hers.
Lovejoy’s 6-4 outside hitter had a storybook ending to her high school volleyball career. She signed a letter of intent to play at Southern California on Nov. 14, then led Lovejoy to a fifth consecutive state championship in the three days that followed.
Nwanebu had 26 kills and 11 digs in the Class 4A state final and was named MVP of the match. She’s also SportsDay’s all-area volleyball player of the year.
“Going into this year, I knew people would wonder if I had the motivation to do this,” Nwanebu said. “[Those doubting me] gave me the motivation to prove everyone wrong.”
Nwanebu’s ending was far from certain a year ago. Coach Ryan Mitchell benched her during last year’s state tournament for academic issues, and she could only watch as Lovejoy won a state tournament without her.
Mitchell wasn’t sure what to expect from Nwanebu when the 2012 season began, but he knew the team would need her after moving up from Class 3A.
What he got was a far more mature, far more focused senior. She was rarely off the court during Lovejoy’s near-perfect season. The Leopards went 48-4, with three of those losses coming against Class 5A state champion Coppell.
Nwanebu finished the season with 701 kills, 356 digs, 103 blocks and 35 aces. She was one of 24 first-team all-Americans selected by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
“What makes her story great is that she rebounded,” Mitchell said. “She learned a hard lesson, and she learned it at age 17 instead of at 30. She’s going to be a better player and person because of it.”
Nwanebu is the first person to agree. She knows her career at USC, which reached the national semifinals last year, will be better for it.
“If I hadn’t gone through what I did last year,” she said, “I don’t think I could survive college, honestly.”
Follow David Just on Twitter at @DavidJustDMN.