LA GRANDE — Presley Justice’s versatility on the volleyball court has been evident the last two years with the La Grande Tigers.
Justice, a senior at LHS, has largely played as an outside hitter for La Grande, even though she is better accustomed and better skilled, she believes, as a setter.
“It’s something I’ve spent the most time on, (but) I’ve always had the two setters a grade above me,” Justice said.
She’ll likely get an opportunity to return to that role at the collegiate level, as Justice has signed her letter of intent to play volleyball at Kentucky Christian University beginning in 2021 and was recruited in part as a setter. She also, though, was recruited as a utility hitter, meaning her work in various roles for LHS paid off.
“She is a really versatile athlete,” LHS head coach Melinda Becker-Bisenius said. “She can play anywhere you want her to. If she doesn’t know it, she figures it out.”
Justice spent her freshman year as a setter on the junior varsity team, then was moved into an outside hitter role for the varsity squad her sophomore year after a series of injuries to other players.
“From there she really started to flourish. She understood she had to step it up at that point,” Becker-Bisenius said. “She was going to be (playing) all the way around.”
Justice emerged down the stretch of the 2018 season for La Grande, highlighted by a 17-kill, 26-dig performance in a home state playoff win over Marshfield.
As a junior, she played an even bigger role, finishing with 225 kills, 350 digs and 60 aces for the Tigers.
But while she’s played all over the court for LHS — and has for other club teams — she has also spent a lot of time setting up her teammates, including with a team she played with in Portland. Justice, in fact, believes it’s the best part of her game.
“I was looking to go to college to set because I feel that is my strongest suit,” she said.
Justice said she received three offers, but on top of having her desired major — social work and mental behavior — KCU, an NAIA school in Grayson, Kentucky, gives her an opportunity to venture out of La Grande, where she has spent her whole life.
“I had a really good connection with the coach,” she said. “I went and visited the campus. Right when I got on there, it seemed like I could be comfortable there. It’s a smaller school, which was ideal.”
She added her parents backed the idea of her branching out.
“They are very supportive about me experiencing new things,” she said.
Becker-Bisenius said it’ll be important for Justice simply to have a final high school season as a springboard to the next level, but also that the season — which won’t begin until March due to the delayed start because of COVID-19 — will give her an opportunity to develop as a leader.
“She’s going a long ways away, but I’m excited for her. I hope she has a lot of success and a great experience,” the coach said.
Justice also sees this upcoming season as a chance to lead before she continues the sport she is pursuing because it’s her “comfort zone.”
“When I’m playing volleyball I can forget about all the other stuff going on in the world, COVID or school issues,” she said.
“When I’m on the court I’m in my happy place.”