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2021 VOLLEYBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Emma Kiser, Forsyth Central
Emma Kiser
Forsyth Central senior Emma Kiser exploded for 445 kills as a senior, helping the Bulldogs to a 31-15 record and a spot in the Class 7A Elite Eight, finishing as the Forsyth County News Player of the Year. - photo by David Roberts

Emma Kiser knew in eighth grade that she wanted to play volleyball in college.

However, if she could go back in time and tell that younger version of herself that not only would she play in college, but she would do so as a hitter. 

Well ...

"I would have not believed myself, especially because I didn't start growing until right before junior year," Kiser admitted. "So, I was still short in eighth grade, so I definitely would have been like, 'There's no way.'"

Even into her high school career, Kiser was primarily a setter. She led the Bulldogs with an even 1,000 assists by the end of her sophomore year, averaging 5.8 assists per set.

By the time her junior year rolled around, Forsyth Central head coach Brian Welsch had a new challenge for her. 

"So, I came back and Welsch was like, 'You want to try hitting?' I was like, 'Sure.' Being a setter, I knew how to run all of the hits and plays, so it was easy to transition," Kiser said. "Honestly, I loved the transition. Now, when I'm going to college, my college coach wants me to hit and set, so it's super beneficial to me."

Kiser collected 256 kills last season in her foray into the position. She exploded for 445 more as a senior, helping the Bulldogs to a 31-15 record and a spot in the Class 7A Elite Eight, finishing as the Forsyth County News Player of the Year.

"We all knew coming into the season after last year that we had a pretty good shot of going far," Kiser said. "Especially as seniors with us being mainly on the court, we just were super pumped and excited. When we made it that far, it was honestly something really awesome to experience, but it was also really sad because we honestly expected to go farther. With our school's history, that was pretty amazing for us."

Emma Kiser
"We all knew coming into the season after last year that we had a pretty good shot of going far," Kiser said. "Especially as seniors with us being mainly on the court, we just were super pumped and excited." - photo by David Roberts

Kiser also posted career highs in aces [75], blocks [59], digs [326] and serve received [293].

Kiser shined brightest when Region 6-7A play began, averaging five kills per set and hitting .280 and converting 40.2 percent of her chances into 149 kills.

During a match against West Forsyth in September, Kiser was virtually unstoppable, tallying a career-high 30 kills while hitting .371 despite falling 3-1.

"I didn't even remember getting that many kills. I really don't," Kiser said. "I just remember after the game when my assistant coach, Coach Jordan, came up to me and was like, 'You had 30 kills,' and I was like, 'What?' It didn't feel like it, because normally when I'm playing, I'm just more of one play at a time, like, 'Let's just get this point so we can go serve.' It was a tough loss so I was kind of bummed, but when I found out, I was like, 'OK, well I did everything I possibly could, so that was good."

Two days prior, the Bulldogs had taken region rival and state power Lambert to five sets, with Kiser leading the offense with 25 kills.

Central fell in that match too, 3-2, but the Bulldogs won five of their next six region games, then went on the road to beat Mountain View and Newnan in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The foundation of Central's postseason success can be traced back to Kiser's first two seasons, even as the Bulldogs went winless in region play each year.

"Sophomore year, Welsch made a harder schedule for us, so when we went to third sets with really good teams, we all felt really good about it," Kiser said. "Then at the beginning of my junior season, I don't know what happened; everyone just clicked. Everyone had experience on varsity, so everyone was comfortable. We all get along on the court and off the court, so that was super helpful. I just feel like the atmosphere changed so much to where we were playing more together."

That camaraderie was evident both on the bench and on the court this season.

"At Central, we're called the Central Crazies, so we decided that as a varsity team we would do our own student section," Kiser said. "After that game, the bench and everyone just started coming up with cheers. It just made the game so much more fun when everyone was paying attention and all involved."

Kiser's older sister, Grace Kiser, was a standout softball player at Central and is a sophomore at Columbus State. Emma said that after watching Grace go through the recruiting process, she knew that she wanted to follow in her footsteps and play collegiate sports.

Kiser got her chance last month when she signed to play volleyball at Eastern Florida State College, alongside teammate and fellow senior Sarah Pipping, who signed to play volleyball at the University of West Georgia.

"She's three years ahead of me, so Grace went through the entire recruiting process and all that, so in eighth grade, I started," Kiser said. "So, I was like, 'I want to play in college. That's what I want to do with my life.'"