Christine Ajayi does whatever it takes to help her team.
Which, in her senior year, meant stepping into a new role and out of the spotlight.
Ajayi, who played as an outside hitter for her entire high school career at Colorado Springs Christian School, settled into her new position as libero, stepping away from her hitting ways and focusing on defense - which she did with flying colors.
Her selflessness and success in a brand new position earned her The Gazette Preps 3A-1A Volleyball Peak Performer of the Year honor.
“She humbly accepted the role knowing she wouldn’t be in the spotlight for kills,” said CSCS coach Lori Currier when she nominated Ajayi for Peak Performer of the Year. “She stated she wanted to do what was best for the team and the future of the program. Not only has she embraced the role, but she’s excelled at it.”
Ajayi began playing as a libero with her club team early in her high school career, but stuck with hitting for the Lions because of her undeniable success on the outside.
Her move meant CSCS was without one of its most productive hitters, as Ajayi racked up 330 kills with a .231 hitting percentage in her junior season. But where the Lions lost a hitter, they gained a defensive specialist with a natural gift.
“(Moving to libero) was so much fun but it was a lot of pressure too,” Ajayi said. “The transition from hitting was interesting. When you’re hitting you just want to slam it, so I had to really work on watching the play and analyzing what was in front of me. It was a lot of fun though, and I felt like I had a lot more energy in the back of the court.”
Ajayi was already a talented defender as a junior, with 398 digs, but she kicked it into high-gear for her senior campaign with 464 digs, ranking her in the top five in Class 3A, and received 544 serves with just 49 errors. She also ranked among the top five liberos in the class in assists with 33.
“I was ready to be a leader,” Ajayi said. “As a senior you’re already a leader, but I felt being a libero put me in a higher leadership role because I’m telling them where to go because I’m their eyes on the court.”
Her stellar defense caught the eye of opposing coaches, too, even those in higher classifications.
“She’s an incredible player and leader,” said Air Academy coach Kristen Sciacca, who nominated Ajayi as 3A-1A Peak Performer of the Year. “She has a positive, inviting spirit on the court. She’s very talented defensively. We had a hard time scoring against her.”