Heritage Academy’s Gigi Fields poses for a picture with a trophy her club team, Southern Performance, earned for finishing second at nationals last year. Earlier this month, Fields was named to the All-Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) for volleyball. Photo by: Contributed
November 14, 2018 10:08:30 PM
Gigi Fields doesn't know how, but something clicked when she watched her first volleyball match.
At the time, Fields was only going into the seventh grade at Heritage Academy. Still, Fields was drawn to the mental aspect of the game and the importance of teamwork and six players working as one on the court.
Since then, Fields has grown with the sport, which was started at Heritage Academy in 2011 by Liz Fields and Liz Byrne. Liz Fields played volleyball at Alabama and later married John Fields and became Gigi Fields' step-mother.
After being one of the program's first players, Gigi Fields' maturation came full circle last week when she was named one of 10 players to the All-Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) team. She is the first player from Heritage Academy to earn the honor.
"Gigi has made multiple sacrifices to become the player she is today," said Liz Fields, who stepped down as coach prior to the 2018 season and gave way to Kelly Combs. "She traveled almost four hours a day, three times a week, to train with one of the top club programs in the South.
"Gigi has always been an incredible athlete, extremely passionate about whatever it is she's doing. She will give you her absolute best always."
Gigi said she has tried to become a better teammate and leader to help brings the different "islands," a term her step-mother used to describe the parts of a team, together. She has taken on that role while playing middle blocker and outside hitter. With such a small squad, Fields has developed the confidence and skills to play in every rotation. She said she has learned to have a "positive energy that reflects throughout the whole team."
Fields credits years of playing club volleyball, first with Southern Performance, which is out of Birmingham, Alabama, and now with Level Elite, a club run by former Mississippi State coach Tina Seals, for helping her develop her leadership skills and her versatility.
At Southern Performance, Fields said she only played in the front row. Now that she is with Level Elite, Fields, who also plays tennis, has returned to the girls basketball team at Heritage Academy. She said she would like to play volleyball in college. She said she isn't sure where she will go to school -- she is interested in Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee -- and is considering broadcasting as a major.
Looking back at where she started, Fields said it "pretty cool" to be recognized with the top private school players in the state, especially considering Heritage Academy played primarily Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA)-Member schools in its regular season.
After watching Gigi develop as a volleyball player for five years,
Liz Fields said the honor is well deserved.
"She has definitely evolved into an incredible volleyball player through her high school career, but the passion to be the best, that's something she's always had," Liz Fields said.
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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