VOLLEYBALL: Maybe she was born a winner

Amber North

She plays a position that is easily overlooked. Some don’t understand why she’s on the court. If anything, fans notice her simply because she wears a different color jersey than the rest of the team.

And that’s OK with senior libero Tracy May, because she has filled a key role on every team she’s played on.

May graces the court as if her name is emblazoned on the Diddle Arena court.

When she fiercely utters “Mine!” going after the ball, her teammates respectfully back away.

“It is hard for someone to control a match from the back row, but she does that well,” coach Travis Hudson said. “I think her competitiveness is contagious, and she’s a kid everyone pays attention to.”

Although she does not post statistics that many would recognize, May has still made herself noticeable.

Last season she was Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. This season she was picked to the preseason all-conference team and has already earned two SBC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

On top of that, she has 1,507 career digs, four digs shy of surpassing former Lady Topper Melissa Starck for second place.

Ever since May picked up a volleyball in her hometown of Louisville, she has never known the true feeling of having a losing season.

Volleyball has been part of May’s life since first grade. She developed her skills while playing with her older sister, Kelly, at home.

That was when she discovered her love for the sport.

In fifth grade she started playing competitive volleyball at St. Lawrence, where she won city championships during her three-year stay.

May also played for the Kentuckiana Junior Volleyball Association, winning three national AAU titles.

As a high school freshman, May opted to drive 25 minutes from her home to play for the best high school in Louisville – Assumption.

“I wanted to go to other high schools where all my friends were going,” May said. “But I decided I wanted to go on my own and play volleyball. I sacrificed my social life and don’t regret it.”

May helped lead Assumption to four straight state titles, including a No. 2 national ranking her senior year.

During her four-year tenure at Assumption, she lost only four matches.

“I think I have been very lucky and spoiled by volleyball,” May said.

Even though she wasn’t heavily recruited by bigger universities, May chose to guide another program to a winning season – Western.

Before May set foot on the Hill, Hudson struggled with a .467 winning percentage and had a combined 78-89 record during his first five years as head coach.

All that changed once Hudson found May.

“It was her competitiveness that stuck out to me the most,” Hudson said. “That kid’s a winner everywhere she goes.”

When Hudson recruited May, she learned that she would eventually be playing as a libero, which at the time was a proposed collegiate position.

At first May was reluctant at the thought of restricting her game solely to the back row, dedicating her performance only to defense. It was a tough transition since she had only played outside hitter.

But once May was convinced to put on a Western uniform, the Lady Toppers’ losing days were finished.

In every season May has played at Western, the Lady Toppers have won a division title.

And as her final season narrows down, May realizes that this may be her last season playing competitive volleyball.

“One day we got out of practice early, and when I got home I thought, ‘What am I going to do with my life after volleyball?'” May said. “I think it’ll be a weird and hard adjustment, but I will get a job.”

As she prepares for the rest of this season, May cannot help but smile about all the things she has accomplished just by playing one sport.

“Volleyball has taken me to so many places,” she said. “Now my career’s almost over, I’ve thought about all the state titles, AAU national titles, and conference championships I’ve won and realized I have done a lot.

“And I think I’m lucky to be able to come from programs like that.”

Reach Amber North at [email protected]