By Rubin E. Grant
Audrey Rothman didn’t have any interest in volleyball when she was a little girl.
If her parents hadn’t insisted she play a sport, she probably wouldn’t have become Spain Park’s most dominant player and one of the top high school volleyball players in the state.
Rothman was in the fourth grade when her parents demanded she play something.
“My parents wanted me to play a sport because they thought it would be a good learning environment for me,” Rothman said. “I was kind of quiet and they kind of forced me to play. I decided on volleyball.”
Four years later, Rothman joined the Jaguars’ varsity team. That’s when she figured she had a future in the sport.
“I was on a ‘Y’ team for about two seasons and then I started playing club volleyball,” Rothman said. “I don’t think I started taking it serious until the eighth grade, when I got pulled up to the varsity. I thought that was something special and I could make something out of it. That was an awakening for me.”
Spain Park volleyball coach Kellye Bowen has had a front-row seat as the 6-foot-4 Rothman, a junior outside hitter, became a commanding presence on the court.
“It’s been fun to watch her grow as a player,” Bowen said. “She’s a player of a lifetime to coach, and she’s a lot of fun to watch.
“I think what makes her so good is she has a 6-4 frame, but she’s not a clumsy 6-4. She’s athletic and has good ball control. She’s still learning, so that’s what makes her even more special.”
This season, Rothman has been, in a word, phenomenal, displaying tremendous versatility. She has 177 kills, 47 digs, 39 assists, 27 aces and 12 blocks in 13 games. Two weeks ago, she had 32 kills, with a .455 hitting percentage, 20 digs and three aces in a five-set victory against Mountain Brook.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good about the way I’ve played,” Rothman said. “So far, me and the seniors have taken on bigger roles and I think we’ve all stepped up.
“I think I’m a six-rotation player. I think I’m really strong on defense and offense. I’ve definitely stepped up hitting wise. Against Mountain Brook, I had a big game offensively. I’ve always been a good defensive player, receiving the ball and passing. At one time, I was a setter and that was interesting.”
Bowen likes the way Rothman has taken her performance up a notch this season and become a more forceful player and leader.
“Her level of play this year is different,” Bowen said. “Last year, she had a crowd of people around her as far as hitters, and she understood her role. This year has given her a platform and voice and that’s made her a better player. She’s a very unselfish player and she’s good and competitive. That rubs off on the players. She has dealt with it well.”
Rothman is succeeding despite being the focal point of the Jags’ opponents.
“Everyone comes into a game knowing they have to stop her,” Bowen said. “I feel like she’s stronger this year and more resilient to meet the challenge. A lot of teams don’t have an answer for someone who touches 10 feet, 3 inches at the net.”
Although she’s only a junior, Rothman already has settled on where she’s going to play in college. She’s committed to Florida State.
“Florida State was my dream school because I could play both beach and indoor volleyball,” she said. “There are not many schools that offer both and the only others who offered both are in California, and that’s too far away.”
This fall, Rothman hopes the Jags can reach the state tournament, especially since Mountain Brook has dropped down to Class 6A after winning the 7A title in 2019. Spain Park had an 11-2 record, heading into their Class 7A, Area 6 game Tuesday at Vestavia Hills. The Jags visit Oak Mountain Thursday and play host to Hoover next Tuesday.
“I think the season is going really well, especially the past few games where we’ve really progressed,” Rothman said. “Against Mountain Brook, we faced some adversity and battled through it, and that was really good.
“We lost lot a seniors from last year, but me and ‘KK’ (senior libero Katelyn Walsh) and the other two seniors (Abby Byrd and Bella Pretnar) and a lot of the younger kids have stepped up and done a good job.
“With Mountain Brook moving down to 6A, it’s definitely different this year. They were a big area rival. But there’s still a lot of competition in 7A. We’re looking to get to the state tournament, but we have to keep focused on practicing hard and improving every day.”