By Grace Mayer
FRAMINGHAM – An athlete isn’t made overnight. Although natural talent can carry some athletes onto varsity teams and to national championships, few high school athletes hone their skills to compete at the next level. But Annaliese Edman, a junior at Framingham High and varsity volleyball player, is on her way to doing just that.
The 16-year-old doesn’t take natural talent for granted—she’s been playing volleyball since she was 12, accruing hours of practices, matches, and lifting sessions at the gym with her personal trainer.
But when the Covid-19 pandemic stunted Edman’s high school and SMASH Volleyball club seasons, limiting the number of matches and tournaments she would compete in, she could have taken it easy in the off season. She buckled down on training instead.
“Being able to hit the ball hard is so satisfying,” Edman said, “and the team culture is just exciting to go back to every day and being able to work harder and harder to improve my game.”
While practicing in-doors was off-limits, she turned to beach and grass volleyball instead. She also started working with a personal trainer to build up her strength and increase her vertical jump.
By June of this year, after putting in upwards of 15 hours of training each week, Edman was playing better than she ever had before, said Richard Barton, head director and coach for SMASH Volleyball, one of the top volleyball clubs in New England.
“She just became a hitter,” Barton said, “who just bombed the ball on the court all the time and hardly ever made an error.”
Even before Edman began playing volleyball, Barton said it was clear she became hooked just from watching her older sister Caitlyn compete for SMASH. Since then, Caitlyn has been playing on Salisbury University’s Division III women’s team where she’s now a senior.
Following in her sister’s footsteps isn’t far from Edman’s mind. Although she’s only a junior in high school, she’s already going through the recruiting process, and she’s hoping to play volleyball at a Division I school.
“In every sport there are people who are talented, who never really decide to become really good at it,” Barton said. “And it’s in her hands.”
In June, at the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando, Fla., Edman and the rest of her teammates on SMASH’s 16’s team got to test their abilities.
Ranked 180th out of 184 teams across the country, the team was poised as an underdog, ranked near the bottom due to limited opportunities for the club to compete in matches this past year.
But, from June 26 through the 29, Edman’s team climbed the ranks.
They won 14 out of 15 matches and earned the title of National Champions for the 16 Club division – SMASH’s first national title in the club’s 35-year history.
Edman’s current club coach Kai Yuen, who’s been coaching volleyball for 20 years and played for Boston University, said Edman’s “never quit attitude” has pushed her to become a better player this year.
During the championship, she earned a hitting percentage of .388, far above the .300 hitting average that is considered excellent for volleyball players, Yuen said.
“She was our go-to person,” Yuen said. “Anytime you need a point, she gets it.”
Shifting between the six positions on the court—launching serves, spiking, and diving for returns left and right—she’d send the ball sailing over the net, scoring her team another point.
At 5-foot-11, she’s grown comfortable playing every position on the court.
At the championship, Edman was awarded the Tournament All-Star recognition out of the thousands of players. But her accolades don’t stop there.
She’s qualified for the AVP Beach Nationals every year since she was 12, and she is currently her club team’s MVP, Yuen said.
Although Edman’s been winning matches with SMASH and her high school team for several years now, she’s set her sights on leveling up to compete in college. For Edman, the extra hours spent training are worth it.
“To have it pay off in big national championships and be able to be recognized is just really rewarding,” Edman said. “And, I don’t know, I just don’t want to stop.”
Grace Mayer is a senior at Boston College studying marketing and journalism. She is also the head arts editor for Boston College’s newspaper, The Heights, where she’s covered the arts beat for three years. She is excited to report on a variety of beats for Framingham SOURCE this summer. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.