St. Mary’s Ryken’s Cydney Smith chooses volleyball over basketball

St. Mary’s Ryken senior Cydney Smith not only had to pick a college, she had to pick a sport. She bypassed some potentially major basketball opportunities to commit to the St. Francis (Pa.) volleyball team.

Smith had basketball offers from Mount St. Mary’s, Radford, Charleston Southern and others, and St. Mary’s Ryken girls’ basketball Coach Kris Sandberg said that Oregon State, South Florida, Missouri and other schools had been “calling like crazy.” Oregon State watched Smith in person at two games last season, Sandberg said.

Ultimately, Smith chose depositing balls over a net instead of depositing balls into one.

“Volleyball is kind of new for me, but I really enjoy playing it,” said Smith, a middle hitter who took up that sport in high school, several years after she had started playing basketball. “It’s a new challenge. Volleyball was kind of fun and interesting and I was a little burned out with basketball. [I like] the constant energy after every play whether something goes right or wrong.

“Everybody pretty much knows me as a basketball player and might not have even known that I play volleyball.”

Smith, whose father, John Smith, played basketball at Duke in the late 1980s, had visited St. Francis a few months ago, and when she returned recently, she committed on the spot. She wants to study physical therapy, and the Loretto, Pa., school has a program that she liked.

The 6-foot-3 Smith was leaning toward St. Francis already, but she also was interested in perhaps playing basketball at Radford, where she had scheduled a visit. But the same day she visited St. Francis for the second time, Radford dismissed its women’s basketball coach, Tajama Abraham Ngongba. That sealed her decision.

“I knew what I wanted to pursue in the educational field, and I knew I wanted to play a sport while doing it,” Smith said. “I don’t need to take the most rigorous athletic program out there or the highest [athletic] level school I could go to. I’m not looking for that. I’m just looking for the best fit for me.”

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