(Sunday, April 4, 2021 edition)
Rhea County High School (RCHS) senior volleyball player, Brianna Parks, became the latest RCHS student athlete to sign her name on the proverbial dotted line, as she inked her national letter of intent on Thursday, April 1, to play for the Cleveland State Community College Lady Cougars.
Family, friends, loved ones, teammates, coaches and administrators gathered in the commons area at RCHS to show their support of Parks, the standout volleyball hitter, who had numerous kills during her final season as a Lady Eagle.
During her career at RCHS, Parks received multiple accolades for her performance on the court. They include: Second Team All-District (Sophomore); First Team All-District, First Team All-Tournament (Junior); First Team All-District, First Team All-Tournament (Senior).
Since beginning her volleyball career in the sixth-grade, Parks is very excited for the opportunity to play at the next level and elaborated on her decision to play for the Lady Cougars.
“It feels good to be playing for Cleveland State,” said Parks. “I just liked the environment of the volleyball team, and whenever I went to their practice, they just welcomed me in and stuff like that.
“I’m just excited. It’s like a new chapter, you know, getting out of high school,” continued Parks.
Parks stated some of her favorite things about playing volleyball is, “all of it,” which includes playing the game itself, meeting new people, having fun on the court and hanging out with teammates.
One of Parks’ favorite moments at RCHS was during her sophomore season, where the Lady Eagles soundly defeated the Walker Valley Lady Mustangs. She stated prior to that victory, her and her teammates had never beaten Walker Valley, which added to the milestone victory and eventual favorite moment.
Lady Eagle coach, Stephanie Poe, Lady Eagle assistant coach, Ashley Pelfrey, and Parks’ Scenic City club team head coach, Ashley Green, were all in agreement in their thoughts and feelings of a well deserved day for their hard-working player, signee and team captain.
“It felt awesome. She deserves this, as she is one of the hardest working athletes that I’ve ever coached,” said coach Poe of Parks. “Her drive that she wanted to do this, and especially after not making the middle school team, then coming back and wanting to work that much harder.
“She’s always that player that comes to me and asks, ‘What do we need to do to win today,’” continued Poe. “And, she’s always been a team player. That’s her drive, and to see her sign, it’s well deserved.”
“Bri is just a phenomenal athlete and was a great leader for our team,” said coach Pelfrey of Parks. “She always kept a cool head, even when she was frustrated, that maybe the game wasn’t going the right way, or maybe she was having an off day, she always seemed to make it work. She would always keep the goal of the team in mind over her own personal agenda.
“She really wanted what was best for the team, and she worked hard at things that maybe she was struggling with,” continued Pelfrey. “Like her senior year, she really wanted to be an all-around player, so she worked really hard to get back row to be a passer to where she could play at any position where we needed her to play at any point. That’s great thing to have as an athlete, so she is going to be very missed next season, when she’s not with us.”
“I have coached Bri for two and a half years, but she’s been playing for the club team for four years,” said coach Green. “I can just back up what Coach Poe and Coach Pelfrey said, that Bri is probably one of the hardest working, if not, the hardest working athletes on the floor. She’s always wanting to get better, she’s always wanting to strive to go to the next level and she is.
“Even though Cleveland State might not be a big college, but she’s going to go and do big things there, so I’m excited to see her for the next two years,” continued Green.
Coaches Poe and Pelfrey were appreciative of Parks’ senior leadership at RCHS, as she was a role model to the younger players.
“She was one, as a JV coach, I would always say, ‘Look at Bri. What is Bri doing? Especially for players who were in her same position as a middle hitter or blocking or working towards improving a skill,’” said coach Pelfrey about Parks’ being a leader on the court. “I said, ‘Look at Bri, she wasn’t on the back row last year and she’s playing all the way around this year, and it’s all because she put in the work. If you want to be a Bri player, then you have to be like Bri.’
“She was one I could always point to as inspiration for my younger girls, my freshmen and my sophomores, who were on JV, to strive to be like Bri,” added Pelfrey.
“She’s always been optimistic, she’s always helped out the younger players, saying stuff like, ‘You got this,’ and she always made it a point to know everybody and that was great,” said coach Poe about Parks’ leadership qualities.
Parks plans to study Ultra Sound Technology in hopes of becoming an Ultra Sound Tech someday.
Cleveland State is a two-year community college, located in Cleveland Tenn., with the Lady Cougars competing in the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA), who includes other teams such as Chattanooga State, Walters State, Roane State, Motlow State and several others in Middle and West Tennessee.