Gracie Kiser Wins Kirkwood Award

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Jacqueline Howett

   Senior Gracie Kiser is the first Tampa Prep athlete to have been named the 2020 Kirkwood Family Outstanding Volleyball Player.

   The Kirkwood Award is given based on a player’s performance on the court, in the classroom, and as who they are overall. Kiser was up against 800 other contenders.

   “This is literally a dream come true,” Kiser said.

   Prior to coming to Tampa Prep her freshman year, Kiser had already been a competitive volleyball player since sixth grade. She decided to try it for fun since it was such a big sport at her middle school.

   “I totally fell in love with it and have been playing ever since,” Kiser said.

   Kiser’s volleyball coaches throughout the years have greatly impacted her in continuing to play— through constant encouragement and training to become a better player. One of these coaches is Tampa Prep’s head varsity volleyball coach Leanna Taylor.

   “Coach Taylor has always been one of my biggest advocates and supporters — something I appreciate and love about her — so I think she really helped me,” Kiser said.

   “She’s an awesome coach, and someone I am grateful to have been able to get to know. I’ll always stay connected with Leanna.”

   Playing volleyball at Tampa Prep has not only helped Kiser to grow as a player herself but with her teammates as well. Being surrounded by so many other talented players, her team has been able to have competitive games while having fun along the way.

   “The people you play with become your second family. I’ve made connections and friendships over the years that I will always have, which is awesome,” Kiser said.

   In a regular season, Kiser plays two to three games a week. However, because of COVID-19, this season was cut short to one to two games a week, but Kiser still felt that it was her best year.

   And it shows.

   “I feel really honored to have received this award, especially on behalf of Tampa Prep and Coach Taylor,” Kiser said.

   “It’s super exciting to have won, to be a first, and to be able to leave a little something behind at Prep. It’s beyond cool that I’ll have my name in the trophy case.”

   Kiser has committed to play volleyball at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

   “I love the volleyball program at Lehigh, but above that, it’s absolutely the school for me, so to have everything fall into place like this is just amazing,” Kiser said.

   Although she does not plan on going professional in the sport, she is eager to start the job search and build a career outside of volleyball. Kiser will be majoring in population health.

   “If you love something, work hard and push yourself to get better at it,” Kiser said.

   “When I first started playing, it was tough and getting to where I am now seemed like a total fantasy. But I practiced and trained and worked for years and loved every second of it because I was passionate about it” said Kiser.