Hastings’ Anwusi continues to earn national honors
It was a ball few high school volleyball players could reach, deflected from the Elsik side high over the net.
But Hastings senior Anita Anwusi was able to leap quickly enough and extend her arm, redirecting the ball with her fingertips for a point. Standing 6-foot-3 with above-average reach even for that height, the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American creates quite a presence at the net.
Her size, skill and experience earned several scholarship offers, one from Louisiana State University, to which she committed before her senior season. It also caught the attention of those selecting the USA Volleyball Junior National Team that competed at the 2018 NORCECA Women’s U20 Continental Championship.
Anwusi was part of a 12-player group that won the gold medal June 18-23 in Mexico, competing against Guatemala, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico and Honduras. One of her teammates was fellow Houston Juniors club member Skylar Fields, a senior at Ridge Point.
The U.S. Women’s Junior National Team finished 5-0 at the tournament, sweeping the Dominican Republic 25-20, 25-11, 25-20 in the final for its seventh NORCECA championship in 11 tries.
“It was really fun,” Anwusi said. “I didn’t know any of the girls, expect one. I just came in one weekend and got to work with them. We played like we’d been playing for four or five years, going to Mexico and winning gold.”
Anwusi concluded her standout high school career with a strong senior season at Hastings, displaying her ability to impact matches in various ways. She was the Bears’ leading attacker with 267 kills, averaging 2.6 per set.
Predictably, she was by far the team’s top front-line defender with 81 blocks. But she also led the team from the service line, amassing 71 aces.
Many of the Bears’ top players were seniors, including setter Rebecca Faulhaber, outside hitter Divine Onyebueke and senior libero Alana West. Junior right side Iliyanna Riley is one of the top returning players after ranking second in the team in aces and digs, third in kills.
Hastings started strong with victories against Chavez, Eisenhower and Stafford, adding a few more non-district and tournament wins at the Dickinson Gator Classic and Lamar Consolidated ISD’s Battle of the Brazos. Though the District 23-6A scheduled proved unkind, the Bears took sets from both Alief ISD rivals and made progress in their first year with coach Naima Bagot.
“I love my team,” Anwusi said. “Most of us have been playing since my freshman year. Our current coach has been here for one year. Along the line, I could see this team going to the playoffs.”
Her high school career complete, Anwusi has one more season of club volleyball before heading to LSU. She could sign with the Tigers as early as Nov. 14, the NCAA’s first signing day of the 2018-19 season.
While LSU has a successful history, including 15 NCAA Tournament appearances and two Final Fours, Anwusi was intrigued by the academic opportunities in Baton Rouge. She plans to study kinesiology or biological sciences.
“I first like their academic program, how they work with the student-athletes and how many student-athletes graduate with a really high GPA,” Anwusi said. “I also like how they had my major. They also have a really good medical system over there.”
Anwusi will join a Tigers squad that held a 7-14 record during a rebuilding season. They were 20-10 in 2017, reaching the NCAA Tournament. LSU could have a towering duo next fall with Anwusi and Fort Bend Christian graduate Taylor Bannister, a 6-5, sophomore outside hitter.
A senior year that included an international gold medal could help prepare Anwusi for the next level.