Hampton volleyball’s Russ rewarded for persistence
It is a popular story in basketball lore that Michael Jordan missed the cut when he first tried out for the varsity team.
Hampton volleyball player Anastasia Russ knows the feeling.
Despite being taller than most of the other players, she was deemed unfit to make the seventh grade volleyball squad. Now, at 6-foot-3 and only a sophomore, she’s not only playing — she’s excelling on a Hampton team primed for a playoff spot in WPIAL 3-A.
“It just made me want to try harder and get better next time,” said Russ, who plays middle hitter. “I was tall back then, but that was the first time I was playing volleyball.”
Coach Matt Robertson wasn’t around at the time, but he is glad he took the job when he did. Better late than never.
“I don’t know how she got cut, but she did,” he said. “I’m just glad we got here early enough to get her on the team.”
Robertson attributes much of Russ’ development to a year-round commitment to volleyball that included her first season playing for the summer club team, Pitt Elite.
“I think being exposed to that type of competition helped improve her game,” said Robertson, who had Russ on the junior varsity team last year. “She was ready to go after playing all summer, and having that extra help from the start was great.”
“A lot of the girls played at Pitt Elite, which started our bonding and connection,” said Russ. “It really helped prepare me for the season.”
Russ, whose dad is of similar stature and older brother is 6-5, is able to use her height to her advantage as a blocker and hitter, where she is able to hit over the other team’s blocks at the net.
“She’s still raw and has a ton of potential,” said Robertson. “I was at the (eighth grade) tryout, and the difference from then to where she is now is unbelievable.”
Russ, who wants to play volleyball in college, is focused on a playoff berth.
“I’m really happy to contribute on varsity and fortunate to play wish such great girls, especially with the strong senior leadership,” she said. “I think our team wants to have success for the seniors and get first in the section to get that banner.”
Devon Moore is a freelance writer.