CLIFTON PARK – If her volleyball career was a book, it might be called, “The Education of Reagan Ennist.” It’s not an eye-catching title, but don’t judge a book by its cover.
Now in her third season with Shenendehowa’s girls’ volleyball team, the sophomore outside hitter has gone from intimidated eighth-grader with her eyes wide open to experienced sophomore with her eyes wide open so that she can score another point on opponents.
Ennist has landed on two watch lists this season: the American Volleyball Coaches Association Phenom Watch List and as just one of seven New York state players on VolleyballMag.com’s ION List. Those who have watched her play know it’s well deserved. The interesting part is that she’s still learning.
Ennist, who grew about two inches the past year to her present 6-foot-2, began her varsity volleyball career in eighth grade in the 2020-21 “Fall II” season during the spring because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“She was definitely ready for the varsity level at that point, but it was maybe a less-stressful, less-travel kind of situation for her. She was ready. We knew we needed to start grooming her for the level here,” Shenendehowa coach Lori Kessler said.
“I was petrified in eighth grade because I was the youngest one on the team,” Ennist said. “So I was definitely nervous because that was the first high-level volleyball that I kind of had ever done. But I had great players with me. They were always so reassuring and helped me with everything.”
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That abbreviated season just included league play, and not the high-caliber weekend tournaments that Shenendehowa usually participates in, so last year, as a freshman, Ennist got her first taste of that life.
She took to it just fine.
“I remember one of her very first tournaments her saying to me, because it was a very combative match, ‘This is so fun!’ ” Kessler recalled.
The season ended with a Section II Class AA championship, regional title and an appearance in the State Girls’ Volleyball Tournament, in which the Plainsmen were eliminated in pool play.
“That was a good year for her to experience,” Kessler said. “It was also good for her to experience the postseason and be in those pressure situations as a freshman. Now here she is her sophomore year, and we’ve been in pressure situations in almost every tournament, and we have Burnt Hills, our biggest match of the season, Monday night and then the postseason. I think having that experience has really helped her be in those situations and perform well.”
Ennist was named a Suburban Council first-team all-star last year and an All-State Tournament Team selection. For the year, she had 340 kills, 148 digs and 37 blocks.
Ennist can tell her talent has grown, but she also feels like she’s learned how to become more of a leader.
“I definitely know my role now,” Ennist said. “We have amazing leaders on the team. We have two great captains, they’ve shown me – and my sister was a captain last year – so they’ve all shown me how to become a better leader and how to be more positive on the court.”
Ennist and her best friend added to their volleyball education by attending camps over the summer, including one in Texas, where she said the volleyball level is amazing.
“It felt more natural because I had this club season with most of the girls on my team now. I felt better and not as nervous,” Ennist said.
Now that the competitive weekend tournaments are the norm, Kessler thinks that Ennist has developed making different shots or hitting through seams.
“I think she also has learned how to become a good defensive player as far as putting up a block against right-side hitters, and she’s doubling up middle hitters. That has put a lot of pressure on other teams because she is so tall and can put up a great block,” Kessler said. “I also think that she is coming along defensively in the back row, as well, and really focusing a lot on that in her serve-receive. Being in these situations each year, she’s taking on more and more responsibility on the court.”
“Last season what we focused on was double-blocking that middle, and that’s a huge thing you’ve got to get used to,” Ennist said. “It definitely took some time, but I feel I’ve gotten better at that. Blocking-wise, I’ve gotten pretty decent at seeing where the girls are at and knowing where the ball is going and stuff like that.”
And those two inches she grew? Yeah, those help as well.
“Plays where it’s kind of hectic and you don’t have time to really jump, you’re just kind of reaching up. Yeah, being able to jump pretty high and being tall definitely helps,” Ennist said.
And just like classroom education, teachers hope a lower grade motivates students instead of defeating them. The Plainsmen’s failure to reach the final at states certainly did that.
“Pretty much our whole team, beside three new girls who came up, experienced the feeling of disappointment,” Ennist said. “Coming into this season, it definitely made us super-excited, and we wanted to work even harder to reach that goal.
“In the beginning of the season,” she added, “coaches give out a form for us to fill out – our goals for this season – and we literally all put, ‘Make it to states and win.’ ”
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