At a college signing ceremony on Thursday afternoon at Rock Hill High, senior Lauren Espinal thanked her parents for all of their efforts helping her volleyball career, “even though sometimes I can be annoying.”
The big group gathered in the school’s A conference room laughed, as did Brock Rodgers and Josh Bragg, the other two Bearcats seated on either side of Espinal. All three signed agreements to continue their athletic and academic careers in college.
Espinal is headed to Maryville College in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, not far from Knoxville. Maryville got in touch with Espinal’s club volleyball coach and when she visited the school, she fell in love. The second visit – last month with the fall leaves in full autumn color – was even better.
She wasn’t surprised to be playing college volleyball.
“I’m surprised that I went this far. I thought I would stay more in-state,” said Espinal.
Espinal isn’t sure what she wants to major in yet, but is leaning toward physical therapy. She has a 3.8 grade point average and plays middle hitter. She said she’ll enjoy playing at the NCAA Division III level, which is more laid back than the higher reaches of college volleyball.
Rodgers will join his brother, Isaac, and four other Rock Hill Bearcat baseball players at Erskine. A middle infielder, Rodgers first thought that he wanted to get as far away as possible from his older sibling, but ultimately decided Erskine was the best spot for him.
“He’s gonna be able to help me out a lot,” Rodgers said. “It’s in the middle of nowhere and that’s not much to do, but other than that I like the campus a lot. It’s not too big and it’s not too small.”
Like his brother, Rodgers said he’d strived to play college baseball his whole life. He has a 3.5 GPA and had a few options at the junior college level, but opted to join the Flying Fleet.
Bragg made a bit of history on Thursday, becoming Rock Hill High’s first men’s volleyball signing. It’s not a common sport in the southeast, but a few local schools do field teams, including Erskine. Bragg has two older sisters that play college volleyball and it was tagging along with them at Rock Hill that helped him develop in the game. Bragg has been a manager and key practice player for the Bearcats’ volleyball program, while excelling on a club team out of Charlotte on his own.
“I liked the overall college at Erskine,” said Bragg. “And the coach, he just made it seem like home.”
Bragg has a 4.3 GPA and received an 82-percent scholarship from Erskine, the maximum amount for men’s volleyball, which only receives four scholarships split among the team. He had another offer from Belmont Abbey.
Miller signs with Lenior-Rhyne
Seth Miller of the York Cougars signed a swimming scholarship with Lenoir-Rhyne in Hickory, N.C.
Miller, who competed on the Cougars’ varsity team for six years, was a named to the All-State and All-Region teams twice during his outstanding prep career.
“Lenoir-Rhyne is a good fit for me,” said Miller, who will major in marine biology. “The campus is beautiful, and the coaches and swimming team were very friendly when I visited.”
Miller, who won the 50-meter free and 100-meter butterfly divisions in the region meet this year, has the confidence he can contribute next year at Lenoir-Rhyne. “This is a great opportunity for me,” said Miller. “I am looking forward to the challenge of competing at the next level.”
York head coach Wayne Lowery had plenty of praise for Miller’s work ethic. “ He put everything he had into swimming,” said Lowery. “I look for him to continue to get better throughout his college career.”