GERALDINE — Playing college volleyball runs in the family for Geraldine senior standout Jerika Gary.
Two years ago, Gary’s sister, Jadia, signed to play for Snead State. Gary continued the family tradition March 6 when she signed with Wallace State-Hanceville, which has won 10 of the last 11 ACCC/Region XXII Tournament championships.
“At first, I was just going to be a walk-on for Wallace and I thought about going somewhere else so I could get my college paid for, but then he [WSCC head coach Randy Daniel] ended up offering me, and I knew it was the right place,” Gary said.
“I’ve wanted to play college volleyball since I was about 12. I’ve always wanted to play at Wallace, but I never thought I was good enough.”
Gary joins Geraldine teammate Haven Hall at Wallace State. Hall signed with the Lions last November.
“I’m super excited to be with her,” Gary said.
Daniel said he expects Gary to work hard and get on the court right away for his team.
“I’ve known Jerika since she was probably in the seventh grade from doing camps, and from signing so many kids from Geraldine,” Daniel said. “She’s a kid we’ve always liked and she kept improving, and we offered her a scholarship and she jumped on it. We were happy to get her. She’s a good player.
“She’s a strong hitter, and that’s a position, outside hitter, that we’re looking at adding her for. Because I know her and her family and I’m familiar with the program around here, it’s an easy choice for me.”
Gary entered the Bulldog program as a seventh grader. She played for the Bulldogs’ junior high squad in the seventh and eighth grades and moved up to the junior varsity as a freshman. She joined the varsity during her sophomore season.
Gary excelled at outside hitter for the Bulldogs, which is her favorite position. She also played middle blocker and right-side hitter during her career.
“I’m not a very good back-row player,” Gary said. “I’m really tall and I’m not that fast. I feel like as a hitter, I’ve improved every year and gotten better, and that’s what helped me get a scholarship.”
Gary’s improvement was evident during her senior season, when the Alabama High School Volleyball Coaches Association selected her first team All-State in Class 3A.
Gary collected 308 kills, 67 total blocks, 104 digs and 25 aces for the Bulldogs, who posted a 42-9 record and finished as the Class 3A State Tournament runner-up to Montgomery Academy. Gary also made the all-state tournament team.
“It was seriously something I never thought would happen, but we kept working every year and got ourselves there,” she said of playing in the state finals.
Gary’s performance helped the Bulldogs win DeKalb County, area and super regional tournament championships in 2019. The super regional crown was Geraldine’s first.
“I’m so happy with the way we ended our season and us being so close,” Gary said. “Everybody on the volleyball team was my friend, we were all friends together, and we liked to hang out. It really meant a lot that I got to do it with them.”
Geraldine head coach Renee Bearden coached Gary during her junior and senior seasons. Gary helped GHS reach the Class 3A Final Four as a junior.
“Jerika’s maturity on the court has definitely paid off,” Bearden said. “This year she was able to combine her court awareness and her strength as a hitter, and it paid off."
Gary expressed gratitude to those who helped her achieve her dream of a college scholarship.
“My parents, they always help me through everything,” she said. “They’re like my No. 1 supporters. They’re always there for me.
“Every coach I’ve ever had has always helped me improve, and I have some of the best coaches. Jason Cagle has always helped me and kept me going. Even if I was sad or if I made a wrong decision, he was always there for me.
“I have a lot of support. My sisters … Jadia encourages me, because I’ve always wanted to be better than her.”
Wallace State’s season will begin in late August. It will be Daniel’s 14th as head coach.