On a recent road swing through Atlanta, Moneshia Simmons put on a show.
The Clemson junior and Mill Creek grad tallied a career-high 19 kills in a victory over Georgia State at the Georgia Tech Classic, giving her the highest three-set kill total in the ACC this season. The effort was sweeter because it happened in front of family and friends.
"My teammates say there's the Georgia Tech fans section and then there's Mo's section," Simmons said of the hometown support. "All of my family came this time. Some of my old basketball and volleyball teammates came. Friends and family came. I like to perform at my highest level when I'm there so they can see how much I've improved."
Everyone on Clemson's schedule has seen that the past few months.
Simmons is in the middle of a breakout season individually, earning all-tournament honors at all four of the Tigers' tournaments and winning MVP honors at the Clemson Classic. She ranks third in the ACC in kills per set, but that isn't the only improvement in her game.
Her kills per set (3.91 this year to 2.39 last year), digs per set (2.36 to 1.71), hitting percentage (.298 to .253), points per set (4.59 to 2.92), serve percentage (.936 to .908) and aces per set (0.23 to 0.08) all have increased after a summer of hard work.
"Part of it is not being a sophomore anymore, having a different mindset coming in (to this season)," Simmons said. "I want to win the ACC. I knew I had to come in and take my role as a big hitter. ... Fans just want to see someone hit it really hard, but I've limited my errors. I make less hitting errors now. And the coaches tell me I understand the game a lot more."
Simmons, a standout basketball player at Mill Creek, is still learning volleyball in a way. Most opposing players have been around the sport much longer than the 6-foot hitter, who played for the first time as a high school freshman. She fell a little out of love with basketball toward the end of her high school career and embraced a new sport that has worked out well for her.
Simmons' success at Clemson --she was rookie of the year and freshman All-ACC in 2010 -- provided a tryout with USA Volleyball last year. She made the Junior National Team and gained invaluable experience, in addition to making sure her name was in the mix for future U.S. teams.
"That was the best experience, playing with girls who are at another level," Simmons said. "Playing against girls who have played since they were 3 or 4, your competition level goes up. You play your best. I think I brought that back to the college level."
While Simmons has hopes of a return to USA Volleyball and a career overseas in professional volleyball, her focus is currently on Clemson. The 20-year-old communication studies major has high hopes for the Tigers this season and beyond.
"We have every aspect we need on this team to win the ACC," Simmons said. "We just have to pull it all together."
Though Connecticut lost 30-24 to Western Michigan, a bright spot was Norcross grad Geremy Davis, a wideout who caught nine passes for 123 yards. ... Buford's Cody Getz rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown, but his Air Force team lost 38-35 to UNLV.
Wehr earns conference award
Regis College (Mass.) tennis player Abigail Wehr, a Collins Hill grad, was named the New England Collegiate Conference Rookie of the Week on Monday.
Wehr was 4-0 in matches the previous week for the unbeaten Pride, winning two matches each at No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles. She is 4-0 at No. 1 singles and 4-0 at No. 1 doubles this season.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.