AZTEC — A broken foot has kept Brianna Bradford from playing volleyball for Aztec this year, but her derailed senior season didn’t hold her back from earning the chance to play at the collegiate level.
Bradford, a versatile 6-foot-2 middle blocker, signed a national letter of intent to play for Seward County Community College Monday at Lillywhite Gym.
Seward, located in Liberal, Kan., competes in Region 6 of the National Junior College Athletic Association. This season, under the direction of second-year head coach Thais Baziquetto-Allen, the Lady Saints are 23-9 overall and claimed the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Championship with a 14-2 record in conference play.
Bradford said the connection she made with Baziquetto-Allen and assistant coach Darshaya Gallard played a big role in her decision to play for Seward.
“I’ve done a lot of official visits with schools and talked with a bunch of different coaches, but when I met coach (Baziquetto-Allen) and coach Gallard, they were just so interested in me and excited for me to play for them that it made me really interested,” Bradford said. “Being around them, they’re both strong-willed people, they played volleyball at a high level and work with the girls a lot. That really stood out to me.”
Bradford said she initially never thought of playing for a junior college program, but the fact that she’ll have a chance to play significant minutes as a freshman helped swing her decision, especially after missing out on her senior season with the Lady Tigers.
“Not playing has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to emotionally go through,” Bradford said. “I’ve learned to not take my playing for granted any more. It was really hard to watch my team play. But they’re still my team, and I support them.”
Bradford has grown about 6 inches since her freshman year. She said the growth spurt made her clumsy on the court, and both her and Aztec coach Anna Strauss said if a whistle stopped play, it was likely because Bradford was in the net.
Continued work on her coordination will one of her biggest tasks in play at the collegiate level.
“At the college level, everything is going to be a lot faster. She’s going to have to work on her footwork and get a lot faster,” Strauss said. “Everyone is going to be her size and quick, so that’s what she needs to improve on the most.”
Bradford, who boasts a 4.7 GPA, said she plans to major in pediatric nursing when she enrolls at Seward.
“I’ve always had a big fascination with kids,” Bradford said. “I love working with them, and so being a pediatric nurse will allow me to branch into the medical field, which I love, and it will give me the chance to work with the kids I’m passionate about working with.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.