Hard work pays off - (Spokesman Review)
September 2, 2008
Hard work pays off
EV senior attended USA Volleyball development camp
Justine Simpson, third from left, is pictured with, friends from the Women's Junior Development A1 volleyball camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. , from left, Megan Carnell from Sugar Hill, Ga., Stephanie Zielinski from Coral Springs, Fla., and Melissa Haskill from Medford, Mass.Courtesy of Justine Simpson (Courtesy of Justine Simpson)
Steve Christilaw
Correspondent
August 14, 2008
In the beginning, Justine Simpson's love for volleyball went unrequited. "I've been in love with volleyball from the first time I saw it being played," the East Valley senior laughed. "But it took a long time before I was ever any good at it. In fact, I was pretty bad at first. But I still loved playing and, over time, I got better and better."For Simpson, love means working hard at every opportunity. While some athletes are born gifted, Justine Simpson's gift is a willingness to learn and a desire to work hard. Her talent is the dividend of so many hours of sweat equity – a talent built from the ground up, one drop of sweat at a time.Simpson doesn't like to talk about the long road her love of volleyball has taken.
"She is not a bragger and thinks it is rude to brag," her mother, Jannah Simpson, said."I, on the other hand, like to brag. She is our only child, and we are proud of her and her hard work toward the sport she loves the most."In the beginning, Simpson spread her love over three sports: volleyball, basketball and softball. Once she reached high school, basketball fell by the wayside so that she could concentrate on volleyball and, to a lesser extent, fastpitch softball.Early on, the situation was, for the most part, the same in every sport."Justine was always the one who had to sit the bench," Jannah Simpson said. "One day she came to me and asked what she could do to get better and that's when she started playing AAU basketball, select fastpitch and club volleyball. In sixth through eighth grade she played on six teams – still sitting the bench more than her fair share."Rather than becoming discouraged, Simpson chose to work harder. She attended camps. She went to clinics. She tried out for more teams. And she got better. And she moved up through the ranks of her club teams. She was a key player in qualifying her 16U volleyball team for the 2006 Junior Olympics in Minneapolis, where the team placed 42nd in the nation. She helped her 14U fastpitch softball team reach the Western World Softball Series."I remember parents coming up to us, amazed at how much Justine had improved her fastpitch and volleyball games," her mother said. "She worked so hard … she has earned everything."Now a 5-foot-8 outside hitter, Simpson was named offensive player of the year following her sophomore volleyball season. As a junior, she was named second-team All-Greater Spokane League, the first East Valley Knight to be so honored in more than seven seasons.Never one to rest on her laurels, Simpson has continued to work hard.This summer her 18U club team qualified for the 2008 Junior Olympics Volleyball Championships in Dallas, although the squad's coaching staff opted to take the team to the Reno volleyball festival instead.And Simpson earned even more volleyball honors, tapped to attend the prestigious 2008 Women's Junior Development A1 Training Camp, sponsored by USA Volleyball, in Lake Placid, N.Y. – a camp designed to work with just 32 players over three days, with three-a-day workouts spaced around lectures and training sessions.

"This was the most incredible experience," Simpson said. "I made a lot of new friends and I learned an awful lot about volleyball. I went back there ready to work and learn, but I think some of the other girls weren't quite ready for three-a-days."The cool thing was that I had a chance to talk to a lot of girls about their school teams and about what their leagues were like. I think some people take for granted just how good the volleyball is here in this area."Simpson is ready to start training for her final season at East Valley, and wants to pass along some of the things she learned in Lake Placid."It's our senior season and we really, really want to get to state," she said. "I will do everything I can to help us get better."
A year ago the Knights, under GSL Coach of the Year Jim Dorr, finished one game away from reaching the state tournament, falling to rival Mt. Spokane in the winner-to-state playoff game.Whatever happens in the GSL, Simpson doesn't see her volleyball playing days ending any time soon.Dubbed the type of player who's "good at every phase of the game, but not great at any of them," Simpson has drawn interest from several colleges."I've been talking to three schools," she said. "One is a Division III school and they don't have athletic scholarships at D-III schools. But they are offering academic scholarships, which I'm eligible for. So that's a possibility. "What I really want is to earn a scholarship to play volleyball. That's my dream. I want my volleyball to pay for college. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but no matter what, I'm going to keep playing."A love like Simpson's deserves nothing less.

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EV senior attended USA Volleyball development camp
Justine Simpson, third from left, is pictured with, friends from the Women's Junior Development A1 volleyball camp in Lake...