The South County volleyball program was in its second year of existence when head coach Dave Prahl discovered an athlete who could change the future of the Stallions. It was the 2006-07 school year and an eighth-grader named Simone Antwi could touch the rim of a basketball goal, hanging 10 feet above the floor.
"I can work with that," Prahl thought. "I knew it would take some time."
It would take time because Antwi had never played volleyball before. She was a naturally gifted athlete, but her skills specific to the sport needed work. Her first season, when the Stallions finished 7-14, was a little rough
As a "freshman, she was horrible," Prahl said. "She couldn’t spell volleyball."
South County improved to 17-4 the following season, losing in the first round of the regional tournament. Antwi continued to work and during her junior season, she earned second-team All-Northern Region honors as the Stallions reached the state championship match.
Now a senior middle blocker, Antwi has progressed into a 6-foot-2 kill machine who will play for the University of Florida next season. She is the best player on one of the best teams in the region. South County was ranked No. 2 in the latest version of the Northern Region Volleyball Coaches Association top 10 poll and the Stallions routinely receive an opponent’s best effort.
On Oct. 14, South County hosted up-and-coming Lake Braddock, ranked No. 9 in the region. A fired-up Bruins team took the first set in convincing fashion, 25-12, and led by two late in the second set, but Antwi and the Stallions were too much. South County closed the second set with an 8-1 run, including four kills from Antwi, and went on to beat Lake Braddock 3-1 (12-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-21) at South County. The Stallions also defeated T.C. Williams, 3-0, on Oct. 18, improving their record to 10-2.
"It’s really exciting to know that we’re everybody’s target," Antwi said. "It makes us always have to play on our ‘A’ game. It challenges us a lot."
Antwi finished with 26 kills, several of the booming variety against the Bruins. Her five kills in the first-set loss was her lowest output of the match.
"Simone was more of a factor after the first game," Prahl said. "You can’t stop her."
Prahl said one of Antwi’s biggest improvements was adding a serve this season. In previous years, she would rotate out of the lineup when it was her turn to serve. Antwi said the hardest part of developing as a player was learning where to be on the court.
"She’s a natural athlete and learned the game spending time with the game," Prahl said. "She used her extreme athleticism to take her to that next level. She’s definitely the best player in the state."
South County will face Annandale, West Springfield and Lee before the start of the Patriot District Tournament. Prahl said he expects to face Lake Braddock for the district championship. While the Stallions have other strong players, like senior middle blocker Tatjana Gainey, who had eight kills against the Bruins, and junior setter Regan Jansen, the performance of Antwi will likely determine how far the Stallions go.
"She’s incredible," Prahl said.