91Ƶ

Full Rotation

News Story categories: Academics Alumni Athletics Nursing
A smiling healthcare professional in black scrubs with a stethoscope around her neck stands in a hospital room with two beds.

On the volleyball court and in the classroom, Grace Parker ’24 made the most of her 91Ƶ career.

On top of compiling the most prolific offensive career in the history of , this May, Grace Parker ‘24 also walked across the Commencement stage as a candidate for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, the product of a challenging, labor-intensive program.

Parker, a humble leader on and off the court, reflexively deflects praise for her accomplishments.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my team and how close we are,” Parker said. “I think over the years, I’ve just built so many strong friendships because of the volleyball program, and they have been so supportive, and my parents have been so supportive.”

An outside hitter, Parker grew up in Colorado but moved to New Jersey as she started high school. With family spread across the United States, including grandparents in Georgia, she knew that she wanted to attend college in the South. The culture of support that she credits for her success was also what inspired her to choose Randolph-Macon.

“I really made my best friends on the team. And I think it was just that tight-knit community of the volleyball team that really made me choose this school,” Parker explained.

Parker’s collegiate volleyball career started strong. She was the 2019 Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Rookie of the Year and led the team with 319 kills as a freshman. As the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the collegiate sports calendar, and the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to affected student-athletes, Parker was independently deciding to switch her major during her sophomore year.

With the dream of working with kids, she had initially begun her 91Ƶ career with plans to become a teacher. But with a love for the sciences, a drive to challenge herself, and inspiration from her sister who had just graduated from nursing school, Parker decided to pursue a BSN degree instead. Internally transferring within 91Ƶ into the four-year program meant that she would remain at the College another year as well, allowing her to utilize a fifth year of NCAA eligibility.

Being a student-athlete and a nursing student are time-consuming endeavors on their own, and even more so when combined. Parker and teammate Jasmin Hanson ‘24 would regularly work clinical rotations from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., run into the gym in scrubs, change into volleyball gear, and jump into a practice that had already started.

A volleyball player wearing a black jersey with the number 9 prepares on the court with spectators watching in the background.

This didn’t stop Parker from becoming one of the most dangerous attackers in not just the ODAC, but the entire country. She was named an , earned ODAC Player of the Year twice, and in 2022 led all NCAA Division III players with an eye-popping 5.36 kills per set. Her 1,851 career kills are both an 91Ƶ and an ODAC record, and she holds three of the top 10 single-season kill totals in program history.

91Ƶ Women’s Volleyball Head Coach Bill Rogers saw in Parker a player with the ideal mentality for greatness.

“You want to bottle that motivation and that intrinsic drive,” Rogers said. “She had an internal fire. It’s one of the things you look for in a volleyball player, but it’s hard to find.”

Rogers describes her as a six-rotation player, somebody that excels at receiving serves and defending in addition to her offensive prowess, and one that never leaves the court. She was effective at hitting against the block, which became particularly important as opposing teams game planned against her. But above all, Rogers noted her growth year over year.

“She’s like a sponge, and we gave her a lot of information over the years,” Rogers said. “She’s particularly good at not backing down from any challenges.”

Parker points to the 2022 ODAC Championship, where the Yellow Jackets swept Averett on the road to claim the conference title, as a significant memory in her career. While she registered a match-high 13 kills, she recalls, “it was also really awesome seeing other team members play so well, in a game that was so important at the time, you just saw everybody’s strengths come through.”

After graduation, Parker is focused on passing the nursing board exam, with an eye towards landing in pediatrics, the NICU, or labor and delivery. For both Parker and Rogers, her legacy at 91Ƶ goes far beyond a box score.

“She’s a great mentor for all of them,” Rogers said of Parker’s impact on the team. “She’s just an inspiration to everyone that she played with.”

And the feeling is clearly mutual. “I think what’s more rewarding is the friendships that I’ve built on the team and the memories,” Parker reflected.