Coaches are singing the praises of former Lady Longhorn three-sport star Britney Owens, as she prepares to join the University of Bridgeport volleyball team.
"The UB coach is getting an enthusiastic and positive player," Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink said.
"She was a dedicated and enthusiastic player for Payson High School."
Stonebrink coached Owen only during her 2004 senior season in volleyball. The previous three years, she was coached by Chris Schwind, who resigned at PHS four years ago and now lives in the Valley.
"Britney was always a pleasure to coach ... she was a dedicated athlete who consistently worked hard and sought out ways to improve her game," Schwind said.
After Owens graduated from Payson High School in the spring of 2005, she played two years for Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
"Britney has been very instrumental in our quest for the 2006 junior college national title," CGCC coach Vanese Hiapo said.
"Her dedication to Chandler-Gilbert Community College, the sport of volleyball, academics and her coaches and teammates will always be remembered."
Owens, a 5-foot, 9-inch outside hitter who can also play middle hitter when called upon, will report Aug. 10 to the University of Bridgeport, where she will begin preparations for the 2007 season.
UB coach Valerie Steen expects the ex-Lady Horn to immediately contribute, "she works hard and motivates those around her so her presence on the court will have an immediate impact on our team."
At BU, Owens will be a member of the 15-person team that includes players from Russia, Serbia, Canada and Uganda.
She said UB's reputation as one of America's strongest international universities, with 25 percent of its students coming from overseas, was among the reasons she chose the school.
Also, after a visit to UB in March, Owens returned home impressed with the school's award-winning academic programs, in which students can earn degrees in a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs.
"I want to be a dental hygienist and the school has a strong program," she said. "There are not a lot of those around."
While academics and cultural diversity were among the attractions of UB, Owens is also eager to take her hardwood v-ball act to the next level.
"I'm excited for the challenge," she said.
"When I visited (BU) I met the girls (on the team), played a little and was really impressed."
For Owens, the path to the University of Bridgeport traveled through the NJCAA championship tournament.
"During it, there were a lot of coaches who saw us and I think that's where I got noticed," she said.
"Pretty soon I was receiving e-mails (from UB coaches) and I got really interested."
As a starring member of Chandler-Gilbert JC team, Owens helped lead the squad to an undefeated regular season, a regional tournament championship and a runner-up spot in the national NJCAA championships held in Scottsdale.
Two years before playing in the granddaddy of JC volleyball, the national NJCAA championships, Owens earned a scholarship to Chandler-Gilbert by starring at Payson High School in track and field, basketball and volleyball.
While most Lady Longhorn fans best remember her volleyball exploits, she was also a top-notch hurdler and sprinter on the track team and a rugged rebounder, strong defender and inside scorer in basketball.
As a senior, she led the Lady Horn basketball squad in field goal accuracy, cashing in on 41.7 percent of her shot attempts.
In the 2004 Grand Canyon region track and field finals, she qualified for state in the 100 meters dash, was a member of the school's 4x100 relay team and finished second in the long jump with a leap of 15 feet, 4-1/2 inches.
Upon graduation, she was the recipient of the Gary Hardt Memorial scholarship and got offers from Chandler-Gilbert.
Owens will also attend BU on scholarships, having received both volleyball and academic financial aid. The scholarship assistance will most certainly put less of a dent in the family budget.
"She has basically put herself through school," her mother Peggy Owens said. "We couldn't be prouder of her."
Owens academic, athletic and social accomplishments have not gone unrecognized by one of her former high school coaches.
"I am proud of her for pursuing her dream of playing volleyball and working through all the obstacles that accompany being a college student-athlete," Schwind said.
Another of Owens' former coaches has little doubt she will thrive at UB.
"We know that Britney will be successful in Connecticut because of the support she receives from her family and her hometown," Hiapo said.