The sky is the limit

Don Knight, file photo | The Herald BulletinPendleton Heights' Avery Ross passes the ball as the Arabians traveled to Alexandria in October.

PENDLETON — The sound from impact reverberates throughout the gym and the swing of her right arm and the lean of her body to gain maximum torque and power is unmistakable.

And it's a good bet that if Pendleton Heights sophomore Avery Ross puts a good swing on the ball, it will hit the floor for a kill, something she did 339 times as a freshman.

And she is just getting started.

"I was very happy with my season," Ross said. "It was great and it was really exciting to win county. I thought we would go further in sectional than we did, but we still had a great year overall."

Although she was the breakout volleyball star from a season ago, it should come as no surprise that Ross would excel at athletics. Her father is Joe Ross, who scored over 1,000 points in his high school career at Northfield before playing four years at Notre Dame.

"He's very encouraging and he's always there for you," Avery said. "But, he won't tell you that you played perfect even though you didn't."

Her older brother Tristan scored 9.2 points per game last year and will be a senior on the PH basketball team; her twin brother Ethan plays football, basketball, and runs track; and her younger sister is Mikala, an up-and-coming eighth grade volleyball player who has been participating in PH open gyms this summer.

Her PH coach, Blair Barksdale, says growing up in a household with a high-level sports culture, which includes her mother, Michelle, who runs 5:30 a.m. spin classes, has helped Avery become an instant success at the high school level.

"It just comes second nature to her," Barksdale said. "She's been in the gym since she was a little baby, probably. It just comes from the atmosphere she grew up in and the competitiveness in both mom and dad. It's just natural to her."

An added element of her development has been her years of training at Munciana Volleyball. Earlier this month, her team claimed an AAU national championship in Orlando with Ross putting away the clinching kill after four days of tournament play.

"It felt pretty unreal at first," she said. "It was very exciting, crazy. I was very proud of our team that we made it that far."

Now Ross is looking for ways to improve before the upcoming season. She cites passing and serving as areas she would like to see get better. Her coach agrees, saying Ross' all-around game will continue to improve with time, experience, and a strong work ethic.

"I knew she was going to come in here and give us an offensive threat on the outside," Barksdale said. "The high school game is such an outside game and I knew she was going to be a game changer for our program. She's learning when we can put the ball in the middle of the court and when she can terminate. It's not always 110%, that's not always going to work. So, that's where she's growing."

Standing 5-foot-9 and possessing a nearly 30-inch vertical leap, the ceiling needs to be high for Ross. Barksdale believes there is great potential for improvement in her future.

"Just continuing to improve her all-around game, being a six-rotation kid, and even being a force in the back row," Barksdale said. "We've got to be able to get her the ball at all six spots. (We're) just continuing to develop her volleyball IQ and continuing to develop her repertoire of shots."

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