By Ben Beitzel
LILBURN - On the volleyball court, Abby Batchelor doesn't fit in.
She's the little one, scooting between the trees. She doesn't blast kills. She doesn't even dish out those skilled set-up passes. She gets neither "Oohs" nor "Aahs." With only three touches allowed per possession, hers is the invisible first one.
If it weren't for her wearing that odd-colored jersey, she'd get no notice at all. And really, everything about the Parkview senior's position is odd.
Start with the name, libero. It's the only Latin-sounding name on the court, or in all of sports. She can't block at the net - not that Batchelor's height would allow her to block. Her substitutions don't count - like her role on the court, her substitutions are invisible.
It seems volleyball's rule-makers tried to make Batchelor's role noticeable. But different colored jerseys and quirky rules can't make people notice, so most people don't.
But the Parkview senior libero likes it that way.
"People expect me to do my job and only notice only when I mess up," Batchelor said. "It makes me work hard. I like to be in control."
Of all the players on the court, Batchelor gets the most from the required knee pads. She is the one who gets low and picks off kills before they hit the ground, and stops serves before they become aces. Her digs are the fulcrum between offense and defense. It's the defensive stop that becomes the first pass.
"It's a giver. It's hard to get stats," said first-year head coach Catherine Zidow. "I like ball control. I would rather be a great passing team than a great hitting team."
Zidow's focus on passing is why she immediately moved Batchelor to libero, marking her as the team's best defensive player. And as Parkview shot out to an 8-3 record this season, Batchelor hasn't disappointed, racking up 56 digs and prompting Zidow to call her one of the team's most consistent players.
"She expects to be perfect and that is what she gives us," Zidow said. "Especially lately, she's been really on point.
"I just want her on the court as much as possible because of her personality and her competitiveness."
Batchelor admits she doesn't like losing, and at times runs down balls that aren't hit to her. But that drive is part of her personality. She doesn't want to lose and refuses to fail.
"The other team expects me to do well and they want me to fail," she said. "My team depends on me to pull through and live up to my position."
That is the pressure Batchelor thrives on. Her team counts on her and others try to get balls past her. Points begin with her or end before they can even start. In her position, mistakes are not acceptable and are very noticeable. For the lifelong soccer player used to relying on teammates Batchelor enjoys all the pressure hanging above her before every point.
"Volleyball you take more individual responsibility because a point ends on an error," Batchelor said. "Soccer you have your teammates to back you up. In volleyball, you have to better the ball and make sure the point doesn't end on you."
It all starts with Batchelor and that control is what she loves. Whether anyone notices or not.
"When you get the first ball of the play, that's a lot of control," she said. "I like that."
SideBar: The Batchelor File
Who: Abby Batchelor
Favorite food: Chocolate chunk ice cream
Favorite movie: "Bring It On"
Favorite TV show: "Seinfeld"
' Two-year varsity starter
' Plays varsity soccer
' Maintains 3.9 GPA