FORT WALTON BEACH — Sarah Duckett had given up on volleyball.
Although it had been her goal to play collegiately since middle school, the Fort Walton Beach senior had eschewed her athletic dream in favor of others with no scholarship offers on the table.
Then Gulf Coast State entered the picture late, and on Friday morning Duckett signed in a small ceremony at the Landing.
“Honestly, it was great,” she said. “I’ve been hoping to sign since I was in middle school, so to finally see that actually happen was great. And to have friends there and coaches who supported me, it was a great experience for me.”
The Commodores, Duckett said, swayed her back to volleyball with familiarity. Gulf Coast coach Scott Allen has long been entrenched within the Okaloosa County community, winning a state championship with Choctaw High School in 2017 and serving as co-director of the Emerald Coast Volleyball club.
“It was probably the biggest (factor),” Duckett said. “A few months ago, I decided I didn’t really want to play volleyball in college, and coach Scott called me and asked me to come down and practice.
“If it wasn’t for coach Scott, I probably wouldn’t be playing volleyball in college at all.”
Born in Panama City, Duckett said she felt comfortable with Allen and his coaching style.
“I just liked playing for him previously, so it was nice to be able to know what you’re going into,” she said. “I feel like the security of knowing you’re gonna be welcomed onto a team, that was probably the biggest part.”
Traditionally a middle blocker or a middle front, Duckett championed her versatility. This past year, she paced the Vikings with 232 kills, 3.3 kills per set, a 48.5 kill percentage and 63 blocks; all were team highs.
She said she plans to study business and business administration, though she isn’t yet convinced that’s the major she will commit to, and she hasn’t yet decided whether she will continue her volleyball career once her two years at Gulf Coast State are up.
“Anything can happen,” Duckett said.
There is one thing she is sure of, though.
“I’m just excited to start playing again,” Duckett said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been playing, and I love having great completion … I think that’ll be really fun.”