Brooks to Catawba Valley CC
LANDIS — A worried Tiffany Brooks was a regular visitor to South Rowan coach Jan Dowling’s office in the early weeks of the volleyball season.
“She was concerned about the stats,” Dowling explained. “She wanted to know how many kills she’d had in the last match, and how many blocks. How many of this and how many of that.”
Brooks wasn’t stat-watching because she wanted to lead the team or the county or the North Piedmont Conference. She was just fretting about her future. Dowling had convinced her to make a serious commitment to volleyball, and she was counting on the sport as the vehicle to continue her education. Without great numbers, Brooks wasn’t sure a college opportunity would materialize. She’s 5-foot-8, which is plenty tall for a girl but short for a college hitter, and if you don’t have inches, you might need stats to convince people you can play.
“I finally told her to stop looking at the stats and just go play,” Dowling said. “I told her there was no way we could win if she didn’t produce. I challenged her to stop being insecure and to be confident, and she was off and going after that. She met every goal I had for her — and then she exceeded those goals.”
Brooks was named team MVP, one of South’s two major volleyball awards. She was all-county and all-conference.
She helped the Raiders have a decent season. South was the second-best team in the county, although it was only the fourth or fifth best in the seven-team NPC.
But one positive about being in the NPC is there is so much talent at North Iredell, 3A state runner-up Carson and West Iredell that college coaches do watch games, and Catawba Valley Community College coaches happened to make the short trek from Hickory to West Iredell when South visited the Warriors on Sept. 20.
“They had actually come to look at West Iredell’s setter,” Brooks said. “But I had a pretty good day, and the coaches talked to me about coming to an open-gym tryout they were having.”
That tryout led to e-mail communications and eventually an offer. Brooks signed recently with junior college powerhouse CVCC, which went 35-2 this fall and won district and regional championships. Brooks is one of four freshman recruits, part of a class that includes North Iredell’s Brittani Carter. Leah Wells, another former North Iredell star, is one of five sophomores who will be returning to CVCC for the 2013 season.
“Tiffany is a smart, versatile player who will bring experience and athleticism to our roster,” CVCC head coach Shannon Hudson said.
Brooks is an exceptional athlete. In track and field, her best event is the pole vault, where she finished second in the NPC and placed in the region last spring, but she also can compete in the hurdles and events as diverse as the 200 meters and the shot put.
Brooks has one of the more impressive vertical jumps for females in the county, so it’s surprising that she never got involved in hoops.
“Never, ever,” she said with a laugh. “I started tumbling and gymnastics in the fourth or fifth grade but not basketball.”
Rowan middle schools don’t have volleyball programs, so Brooks wasn’t exposed to the sport until she was almost ready to start high school. At that point, her gymnastics background had made competition cheerleading her main athletic interest.
But Brooks attended a volleyball camp with her friends, Dowling saw her bouncing around, and Dowling knew she might be on to something.
“I told Tiffany she could be really special in volleyball if she’d give it a run for the money,” Dowling said.
Brooks shares that same fond memory.
“Dowling recruited me,” said Brooks, who hopes to be a dental hygienist. “That’s when I gave up cheerleading for volleyball.”
She never got a chance to learn the ropes on the jayvees. She was a varsity player four years for the Raiders, which is unusual in Dowling’s program. She had a lot of different roles, hitting from the middle or outside, and she could handle back-row duties as well as soar for blocks.
She was showing flashes by her sophomore year, shining about half the time her junior year, and then starring consistently as senior.
On South’s Senior Day, she dominated with 25 kills to lead a victory against Cox Mill, although she might have played even better in a match at Robinson. Other big matches for her this season came against West Iredell and East Rowan.
“She led us in kills, she led us in blocks, and she was second on the team in digs,” Dowling said. “On top of that, she was quietly a good leader and she made A’s in class. She’s been a pleasure. She’s been a real pleasure for four years.”