COVINGTON, Ga. — Emily Earwood blazed a new trail on Thursday afternoon.
The Peachtree Academy senior opted to further her academic and athletic career by signing a National Letter of Intent to play beach volleyball at Mercer University. Set to close out her time in high school as a member of Peachtree Academy's seventh graduating class, Earwood is the first student-athlete in school history to sign with a Division I program.
“It means a lot. It means everything, really,” Peachtree Academy athletic director Ken Van Ness said of Earwood’s signing. “To show that a small school can get a Division I athlete is huge for our athletic program. It shows that kids can come here and do well in academics, but also play at the next level for a Division I school.”
Van Ness spoke to those in attendance on behalf of Earwood prior to her signing. He lauded her work ethic and athletic prowess, choking back tears as he expressed what she meant to Peachtree Academy's volleyball program.
“Emily’s been here since elementary school. Her being a part of our volleyball program and helping take it to the next level was huge," Van Ness said. "We had a good volleyball program earlier on, but once she got to the high school level it really took that next step. She was a big part of that.”
Earwood was an outside hitter for the Lady Panthers. After coming off the bench for the majority of her freshman and sophomore seasons, she earned a full-time starting role as a junior. She then played a pivotal role in helping lead Peachtree Academy to back-to-back GAPPS Division I-AA state titles in 2019 and 2020 — capping off a three-peat for the club.
According to head coach Bobby Mitchell, Earwood's success was a testament to the work she put in on and off the court throughout her prep career.
“She didn’t play the first two years. These last two years, we couldn’t have won state championships without her," Mitchell said. "The kid put in the work. She sacrificed. She failed over and over, but she didn’t give up.”