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Ex-Pirate's success continues in college

Jennifer MacRae was into collecting honors last year as the area's best volleyball player.

Now a freshman at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, MacRae received a new and unexpected honor. She recently was named the Daytona Beach school's scholar-athlete in volleyball. Embry-Riddle is an NAIA team in the Sun Conference.

MacRae is a 2004 Crystal River High School grad. Last year, she needed her own area of the home to display all her awards. She was selected the Times North Suncoast Volleyball Player of the Year and Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year after averaging 12 kills.

MacRae never had Pirates coach Briget Boshell worrying about the athlete's grades either. MacRae had a 4.52 GPA and was in the top 10 of her graduating class.

Many prep stars have some humbling experiences in their first year of college, and MacRae had her share of challenges.

MacRae was a starting middle blocker for Embry-Riddle this season. She averaged three blocks and two kills per game, and the program finished 3-30. The honor softened the bumps for the freshman.

"She was thrilled to get the award," said MacRae's mother, Marian. "Her grades are always very important to her. She was extremely proud and very pleased."

The hurricanes wreaked havoc with Embry-Riddle's season.

"They were evacuated three times," Marian said. "It was a wreck of a season."

The school had to restart its entire first semester, and rescheduled three or four times. Plus, the young team had five freshmen and its setter broke her thumb right off the bat.

"It was a rebuilding year," MacRae said. "We rebuilt the whole program."

Since she has not received her grades, the award caught her by surprise.

"It was quite a shock," MacRae said. "It was a good shock."

She admits that she wasn't ready for the demands of college competition.

"Volleyball takes up 90 percent of your life," MacRae said. "You are always practicing, on the road or in the weight room. I lost a little fat, and it evened out. I weigh 155 pounds, and I am 6-foot-2."

MacRae was happy with the action she saw this year. "I didn't expect to play. I started most of the games. I stepped up and had a lot of fun."

She can't go back to high school, but nothing will replace the good times she enjoyed last year at Crystal River.

"I definitely miss playing high school volleyball," MacRae said. "Being so close to friends and family, I miss that."