ROCKINGHAM — Having the opportunity to play Division I volleyball, go to school with her best friend and live by the beach was an offer that Richmond standout Altman Griffin couldn’t refuse.
She may have waited two weeks before making her decision official, but Griffin ultimately knew where she wanted to spend the next four years of her life. And on Monday, Jan. 29, the two-time Conference Player of the Year verbally committed to play college volleyball for Amy Bambenek and the UNC-Wilmington Lady Seahawks.
“It’s near the beach, that’s one of my favorite parts,” Griffin laughed. “I went on a tour over spring break (last year) … and the campus was just really active and easy going. You just don’t get that vibe from most colleges.
“And my uncles played baseball there, so it’s kind of like a family tradition,” she added.
Griffin has kept her eye on the UNCW program since she attended a camp at the school last summer, where she quickly realized that volleyball on the collegiate level was much different than what she had gotten used to in high school.
Although she was coming off of a strong junior campaign in which she had just grabbed the conference’s highest individual honor — after leading her team to an undefeated record in the league — Griffin admitted that she was “definitely not ready for that level of play” at that point in time.
The Lady Seahawks’ coaching staff spoke with her about getting better and that’s exactly what she did, as Griffin upped her kill percentage by five percent as a senior, recorded more aces than before, and helped Richmond finish the regular season undefeated — breaking the school record for most wins in a season (25).
“When I went to that camp, it was really hard for me because it was completely different. It didn’t work out the way I expected,” she said. “But the school season was definitely a confidence builder because we did so well. It helped me feel like I can play in college.”
Griffin has joined the Triangle Volleyball Club, a travel organization based out of Raleigh, since the season ended and has improved her overall game even more, saying the club has helped her gain some valuable experience as she competes alongside a number of other players who have also commited to play college volleyball.
Her ability to take what she learned from last year’s camp and effectively apply it to both the school and travel seasons is what led UNCW’s assistant coach Meghan Sherman to offer her a recruited walk-on spot at the conclusion of her club team’s tournament last month in the state’s capital.
“I’ve just got more experience and that’s really important,” she said. “Obviously you need to practice, but it’s the experience you need to have to be able to play with collegiate-level players. That’s what has helped me so much, I think.”
Joining Griffin at the beach will be her best friend, Brianna Baysek, who was also a huge part of the Lady Raiders’ record-breaking season. Baysek won’t be playing volleyball at UNCW but Griffin expects them to spend a lot of time together outside of sports, suggesting that the college journey with a hometown friend “will definitely make it a lot easier.”
“Some people go into college and they don’t know anybody … so it’ll be nice having her to hang out with,” she said.
In preparation for her first year in Wilmington, Griffin says there’s no one thing in particular that she’s been working on since there are many responsibilities of an outside hitter in the college ranks. The future Lady Seahawk is aware that she’ll have to pass, defend and serve at a high level if she wants to make an impact in the program.
She will sign her letter of intent in April.
”I’m looking forward to being able to play with the team and form good bonds with the girls, because we’re going to be spending so much time with each other,” Griffin explained. “And just having that feeling of playing volleyball in college.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.
Richmond’s Altman Griffin verbally committed to play college volleyball at UNC-Wilmington last Monday, Jan. 29, two weeks after receiving a personal recruited walk-on offer from assistant coach Meghan Sherman. Griffin led the Lady Raiders to back-to-back conference championships and an undefeated regular season in 2017.