MEDFORD, Ore. — In the upper gym of South Medford High School, a small ceremony with family members, their coach and a school official, three student-athletes reached a new milestone in their playing careers: signing National Letters of Intent to play volleyball in college.
Danielle Pace, Alondra Picasso and Kiya Jackson put pen to paper, overcoming the odds of a pandemic shortened season, and getting to celebrate this moment in a way thought unimaginable this time last year.
"I am definitely grateful that I got to do this because I know I had friends who were seniors last year that didn't get this experience because of how early [into the pandemic it] was," Jackson said Monday. "I'm grateful I got to go through it as normal as it could be."
Pace and Picasso will continue to be teammates, as the setter and outside hitter both signed with the College of the Siskiyous. Jackson will be headed to Helena, Montana, to play for the Carroll College Fighting Saints.
That moment of signing the letter of intent with the Panther backdrop behind them, their family taking pictures and smiling behind their masks, was a moment anticipated by all of them. On Monday, the moment finally arrived.
"I've been looking forward to this for quite a while," Pace said. "I got a text from the coach at the start of the season so it was kind of always in the back of my head, but it doesn't feel real that it's happening right now."
While it may take a bit to soak in the moment for some, the ability to continue playing the sport they love at the next level is an enticing prospect for all three Panther student-athletes. A swelling of emotions as they look out to what the future holds for them.
Picasso: "It's exciting, nerve-wracking, but also I get a really good opportunity," Picasso said about signing her letter of intent. "It's, knowing I can play college volleyball, so it's exciting."
And a proud moment for first-year head coach Robin Akpan.
"My job is to guide and give them the tools to go where they need to go and it's their job to take hold of them and do their best with it and these girls really did that," Akpan said.