De’Antoinette Rodriguez-Hairston, captain for the Savannah State University women’s volleyball team, affectionately called “Dee” by her teammates and peers, is faced with many expected tasks a student-athlete must fulfill.
The 5’10” criminal justice major from Atlanta has made an impact on the Lady Tiger’s team since her freshman year, though she was a redshirt at the time.
A redshirt athlete is one that has been withdrawn from officially competing in their respective sport in order to further hone their skills and have another year of NCAA eligibility to participate in college athletics. Being a redshirt was beneficial to Rodriguez-Hairston, who is now in her third year competing with the Tigers. However, the road from a redshirt freshman to captain has not been an easy one.
When asked about her athletic career prior to attending Savannah State at the end of her class in the Social Science building, Rodriguez-Hairston said, “I attended Maynard Jackson High School, where volleyball was the only sport I played and I loved it throughout my entire high school experience.”
Her passion for the sport shows on the courts of Savannah State. The junior had a season high of 10 kills in the Sept. 27 game against Tuskegee University, and hit 60 kills for the season on Oct. 15.
Before entering the volleyball court, Rodriguez-Hairston tried track and field, but she wasn’t a fan of the sport.” As time progressed, the track coach was like I think you should try volleyball. It’s an inside sport, and I was like oh okay. Now here I am,” she said.
Rodriguez-Hairston is an outside hitter for the Lady Tigers. “My primary responsibility is to hit and block on the left side of the court,” she said.
The junior has shown her ability to spike a ball against the opposing team and is very effective in stopping spike attempts of the opposing team as well. On the court, Rodriguez-Hairston is a versatile player in her position both on the offensive and defensive aspect of the game. This work ethic and ability are part of the reason she now holds a captain title for the team, a title usually reserved for senior members. Skill level is only part of the requirement for the captain spot; maturity and respect are also needed for the position. “Dee has been one of my mature players ever since I started coaching here at Savannah State,” Head Coach Roselidah Obunaga said. “Her maturity and ability to listen is what has set her apart.”
Rodriguez-Hairston takes the role seriously.
“Being a captain is by far the most amazing thing,” she said. “I am still in so much disbelief as to this is where I am now.”
At the beginning of the season, the team lost junior Karissa Tatum after a car wreck. The tragedy left Rodriguez-Hairston in a state of shock, sadness and disbelief.
Not for one to hide her emotions, she says, “It has been hard because everyone has feelings and each person feels differently about it. It has been very hard for me because of how close I was with her. But I am getting better with time, and my team has been very supportive.”
As the season progresses the Lady Tigers will have their hands full for the next few weeks.
When asked about her expectations for the team, Rodriguez-Hairston said, “Because of what we have been through, many people don’t expect us to come out on time, but it’s completely the opposite. We’re motivated to perform even better now despite how hard it is seeing that we lost a team member.”
The Lady Tigers enter Homecoming Week with a 7-10 overall record and a 6-7 in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The team plays Benedict College in Columbia on Oct. 22 and then hosts Middle Georgia State University at 6 p.m. on Oct. 25 in Willcox-Wiley Gymnasium.
The final home match will be on Nov. 12 against Clark Atlanta University.