You can't have a conversation about Lee Academy girls sports without mentioning Savanna Price.
Savanna has been a force on the softball field and basketball court while also being a contributor in both volleyball and swimming.
You also can't have a conversation with Savanna about the success she's had without her mentioning her teammates.
"What I've done is because of my teammates," Savanna said. "I couldn't have done it without them. It's sad that I'm going to be leaving them. I'm happy but sad at the same time that I'm moving on. I wish that my teammates get to experience the same things as me because they put in as much work as I did."
THE ULTIMATE TEAMMATE
Despite her athletic ability and flat-out talent, Savanna's most redeeming quality is her ability to be a leader.
"This was a role that I kind of stepped into," she said. "It wasn't like I wanted to be a leader; I just wanted to treat everyone nicely and help everyone out. As I did that, I became a leader. I grew into leadership.
"I can be very competitive, but I can also bring you up when you're down. If you miss a shot or miss a ball, I'm the one to tell you, 'You'll get the next one.' I'm also the one that if I miss the ball, I will put my head down, and then my teammates will talk me up."
Lee Academy volleyball coach Heath Griffin only coached Savanna for a year but was able to speak to the type of athlete and teammate she was for the Lady Cavaliers.
"It'll be hard to replace her," Griffin said. "Not only does she bring good plays to the game, but that leadership role is what's so hard to fill. It's always hard to find that girl who's willing to step in and be that alpha and be that leader and motivate people. A majority of athletes, they blend in and they kind of stand in, but you always need that one to kind of step out and take control and give that momentum."
Savanna's athletic ability was on display at an early age. She's been playing basketball since she was 3 years old. Savanna played baseball until the age of 9 before the parks and recreation department said she had to play softball. She swam most of her life. Savanna even played varsity football and was a member of the weightlifting club during her time at Thomas Sumter Academy. She's been able to do all of this not just because of talent, but also because of her work ethic.
"You've gotta want to put in the work to get better," Savanna explained. "And I think that's what some people don't realize is that if you don't put in the work, you're not going to get better. You just can't be about yourself; you have to remember, 'There is no I in team.' Everyone's got to do the same thing, and we've got to put the same effort in I mean. Some could put more effort in it, and then they get a better outcome, and others could put the minimum effort in it.
"In general, like working out, I love to work out. Even though I'm doing softball right now, I'll still be in the gym during fifth period shooting maybe 300 shots. I'm focused on this [sport], and once this ends, and I focus on another. But like right now I'm going to Pembroke, I'm going to tour and practice with their basketball team, so I have to stay loose for that."
Savanna credits her mom, Michelle, as the reason she's as great an athlete as she is.
"My mom has always been there," Savanna said. "She's at every game. She'll get off work to come to games. Anything I need, my mom is my right-hand man. She's always there, and she's always pushing me. I was maybe 2 years old, and she was encouraging me and telling me that if I wanted something, I had to really want it."
Michelle has enjoyed seeing her daughter's success in whatever sport she's decided to play thus far. Being willing to make sacrifices to support Savanna was never an issue.
"She just always loved playing sports and always being outside doing something," Michelle explained. "So we just let her do it, and we've chased her all over the state. Savanna has always been extremely athletic, no matter what she does. She's always played with the boys because she said the girls were always too prissy. But that's just Savanna. She's athletic, and when she does anything, she gives it 100%."
Savanna transferred from Thomas Sumter to Lee Academy in the 10th grade. Savanna said becoming a Cavalier was life changing.
"I'm not gonna trash Thomas Sumter, but I honestly needed to get out," she said. "I came over here and made a whole new family that's so much more supportive, and it's just better. I love it here. I wish I could just have one more year with all of them because the friendships and family I've made is so nice. I just wouldn't change it for the world. I know when I leave, I'm gonna cry and bawl my eyes out because it's so much like a family here.
"Leaving Thomas Sumter gave me a whole different mindset and attitude. Here, it's just supportive. No knocking you down and telling you that you (stink) and that you'll never be anything. They're here telling me I can go to college and go D1 if I wanted to. They're talking me up instead of talking me down. I think that's what the big change was in coming here."
Michelle explained that a bulk of the reason was because of the absence of a varsity softball program at Thomas Sumter.
"She just got to the point where she wasn't liking being at Thomas Sumter," Michelle said. "The biggest reason why we changed was for softball, because Thomas Sumter didn't have a varsity softball team. They had one, and then it fizzled out, and they didn't have any players to play. Switching her over to Lee was the best thing we could have done. She says she wished she'd have been there all along. So it was definitely a good move for her."
A BUMP IN THE ROAD
A little more than a year ago, Savanna had an accident that could've altered everything career-wise and also could've taken her life.
"April 9, I got into a really bad accident. Someone ran me off the road into a ditch, and I ended up flipping my vehicle," Savanna said. "It flipped maybe seven or eight times. I had to crawl through a window just to get out. I did not have a seat belt on, but the cop said if I would've had a seat belt on, I would have been dead. I couldn't walk for maybe like three weeks. I have a permanent dent in my leg from it and permanent scars that are just there. I couldn't walk or even fend for myself at the time. I remember going home that night and not being able to even like sleep or anything. It was just like a big charley horse in the leg, and it just would not go away with anything.
"After that night I wrecked, I was in crutches. I was like, 'All right, screw this, I've gotta walk. I can't be using something to help me walk.' I was having a hard time getting food, man. I couldn't drive, so I was stuck at home 24/7, and it was a killer. I had the support from my mom and my dad. I had cried because I just ruined my only way to go anywhere and because my parents are gonna struggle to find me another vehicle. That was what went through my head when I wrecked; I wasn't worried about me. There's times when I have shorts on, where I can see the dent, and it just reminds me of how lucky I am to be alive. People told me that I should've been dead, and there's no way anybody else would have made it out alive. I felt that God was on my side that day."
Savanna's mentality to fight through that major injury wasn't a surprise to Michelle. It is just another aspect of who Savanna is as a person.
"Nothing really slows this child down," Michelle said. "I say that because she's broken her ankles twice. The same ankle in the same place. That's why she wears an ankle brace when she's playing sports. The first time she broke it was in the middle of baseball season when she was young, and she continued to play in a cast. The second time she broke it was in the middle of basketball season; she played with a cast on her leg. So like I said, nothing really slows her down. She's not gonna let her teammates down either unless she just absolutely has to."
Once softball season concludes, Savanna's time as an athlete at Lee Academy will come to an end. In her three years, she was able to rack up numerous accolades while helping multiple Lee Academy teams go above and beyond expectations.
"I think the biggest thing that I'll remember about Savanna is when she first came in and told me that volleyball wasn't her first sport," Griffin said. "She definitely didn't short herself when she said that. She came in and still gave it her all, and I was thinking, 'Dang, this ain't the girl's first sport, and she's still going all out. A lot of girls when it's not their favorite sport, they won't necessarily give it their all.
"And of all things, I had to put her in the middle despite her being small. Most middle hitters are taller and bigger players. She just had that aggression and grit to go after it, so I put her in, and she would fight. I certainly enjoyed coaching her for a year, and she was a great asset. Whatever sports she does play at the next level, she'll definitely be a good addition to a team."
Lee Academy girls basketball coach Kim Langston had the privilege of coaching Savanna all three years. As a result, Langston got to see the most of Savanna's growth and development. Langston feels Savanna displayed many abilities that just can't be taught.
"Savanna came to Lee as a sophomore and immediately had an impact on our athletic program," Langston said. "She has been a tremendous asset to our program athletically and as a person. She has a tough exterior, plays hard all the time and brings a competitive spirit with her. Savanna has grown each year as she has gotten to know her teammates and they have gotten to know her. Her competitive spirit is so strong that she doesn't like to lose and takes it to heart when a loss occurs. When she gets fired up, she wants everyone to be fired up, and then they want to win just as much as she does. Once she shared her passion for winning the game, they followed suit.
"For me as her coach, a moment that impacted me was when she was only 11 points away from hitting her 1,000th-career point as a Cavalier. She missed this opportunity because we had to cancel four games due to lack of players. She never complained. Another moment was her game against Dillon Christian at Dillon where she scored 53 points, and neither she nor I were aware of the number of points she had scored until the game was over. Savanna will humbly tell you it was off of steals and assists from her teammates. Yes, Savanna plays some of the grittiest, toughest defense, but she's usually doing it with a smile on her face. As impressive as her technical, athletic moments have been, watching her play with her whole heart has been one of the best moments for me. That cannot be taught."
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