Former Westerville South girls volleyball coach Veronica Brownlee believes she’s always had an eye for talent and potential on the court.
A prime example of this is South senior Lauryn Bowie, whom Brownlee first met when Bowie was preparing to enter sixth grade at Walnut Springs Middle School.
Brownlee got her first glimpse of Bowie when she dropped off proper footwear for her sister, Cassadi, who was helping Brownlee run a summer volleyball camp at South. Upon an invitation from Brownlee, Bowie joined the camp for her first exposure to the sport.
“She came in to bring her sister shoes and I told her she should probably stay for the camp,” Brownlee said. “She told me she didn’t play volleyball. She never played in her life. She was about 6-foot then. I told her she needed to play. She was a dancer prior to that.”
Bowie has been enjoying a strong final prep season, which she hopes includes the Wildcats finishing with a winning record and making a run in the Division I district tournament. Her sister is a 2018 graduate of South.
Brownlee and Bowie both admit that she struggled at first. Bowie eventually honed her skills, leading to what has been a standout prep career and her commitment to play collegiately at Virginia.
“(At the camp) she looked like somebody who had never played before,” said Brownlee, who coached South in 2017 and 2018. “It was awkward and hilarious at first, but we couldn’t let that girl go. She played and she got better and better and better and then she fell in love with it. She’s naturally athletic. Her vertical (leap) has always been amazing.”
Bowie fondly recalls first connecting with Brownlee and her first few weeks in the sport.
“I could barely hit the ball over the net,” she said. “I was pretty bad. I stuck with it. I pushed myself. I don’t like being bad at things. I’m very hard on myself. I’m very competitive. I wanted to quit (at first) because I couldn’t get the ball over the net, but my coaches said we’re not letting you quit.”
South was 8-7 overall and 3-6 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Westerville North on Sept. 22.
“We want to dominate,” said Bowie, a 6-2 outside hitter. “We want to come in with a chip on our shoulders and make a name for ourselves and prove what we have.”
Bowie led the Wildcats in kills (188) and blocks (21) through 14 matches. Last season, she was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
“Lauryn is much more consistent and somebody that we can look to for a kill when we need it,” second-year coach Summer Hale said. “She’s stepping up as a leader on the court, too. She’s positive with her teammates as a senior. Her leadership is starting to become noticeable on the court and not just something you see in practice. We’re seeing it in matches, too.”
Bowie participated in Brownlee’s Two Girls Volleyball Club for two years, beginning in sixth grade, before joining Mintonette Sports Volleyball Club.
Two Girls Volleyball Club disbanded in June.
Bowie credits both clubs and South for helping her progress in the sport.
“The family was conflicted because they were so close to us,” Brownlee said of Bowie switching clubs. “I was the one who started her in the sport. I told them I don’t own her. I just want to see her happy and successful. I love her as a person. If you need to try something different then go. It’s no problem. She went to Mintonette and she flourished.
“They did what she needed for her to get to the next level. They took what I started and they finished it off. I’m so proud of where she is and how she’s doing.”