E.A. Sports Today

Comeback complete

PV’s Anna Bryant earns county tournament MVP honors, a testament to her perseverance 18 months after a frightening injury on the softball field

Pleasant Valley senior Anna Bryant collects the tournament MVP award from Oxford principal Heath Harmon. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

“For her to come where she’s at now from where she was is a miracle in itself … There’s not many people I know who has the persistence and the determination to overcome the things that she overcame.”–PV coach Dana Bryant on MVP daughter Anna Bryant

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — As a coach and a mother, Dana Bryant could feel the emotion starting to well up in her throat as she talked about her daughter’s recognition in the Calhoun County Volleyball Tournament.

It has been a long 18 months for Anna Bryant, but her courageous comeback from the severe head injury she sustained on the softball field in April 2016 was validated Monday night when she was named the tournament MVP after leading Pleasant Valley to its first county volleyball title since 2003.

Anna was as active as ever in the match. She had 20 kills and gave the top-seeded Lady Raiders the lead for good by snapping a 16-all tie in the fifth set with her go-to shot into the deep right corner.

“It just proves that I’ve overcome all of it; I’m back to normal for the most part,” the senior setter said during the post-match celebration. “I worked real hard and I finally got there; this just proves it.

“(The MVP award) is an honor, it really is, and I’m happy to get it, but if I could split it up and give it to my teammates, I would.”

But none of her teammates have gone through the ordeal she has.

“But they’ve helped me get through it, though,” she said.

Two Aprils ago, athletics was the farthest thing from the Bryants’ mind. Anna was clinging to life after being struck by a wicked foul ball that found its way into the PV dugout during a softball tournament.

The first 72 hours of her eventual 10 days in the hospital was touch-and-go. She underwent one delicate brain surgery to relieve pressure and repair blood vessels and if the swelling hadn’t gone down there may have been others. The prayers were for her recovery for a return to a normal life much less a sports career.

When she was able to get back to sports, as much as she wanted to return to softball, she was “encouraged” by her dad David – the PV softball coach — to hang up her cleats even though she was his top pitcher, centerfielder and 3-hole hitter. She did give it up, even as college softball coaches continued to express interest in her, and concentrated on volleyball.

She is still working “on a few things” to get all the way back to normal, but to see her play if you didn’t know her story you wouldn’t think anything happened. Besides her 20 kills in the title match, she had 19 assists and 24 digs. She had 51 kills, 46 assists and 40 digs in the Lady Raiders’ three tournament victories.

“For her to come where she’s at now from where she was is a miracle in itself and I couldn’t be any prouder of the way that she played,” Dana Bryant said. “There’s not many people I know who has the persistence and the determination to overcome the things that she overcame. … The girl has pushed and pushed and pushed herself.”

And it has resulted in a steady stream of success. In the game of life there was the re-learning to walk and talk and focusing her vision.

On the field, where she feels most “like myself” versus her off-court identity as “the girl who got hit with the ball,” she has won all-county and all-region honors in both sports. She got back on the floor ahead of doctors’ projections. She played in the North-South All-Star volleyball match this past summer. And she has committed to play volleyball for Jacksonville State, where both her parents went and mother played.

“The first thing I think is I thank God; she’s a miracle,” dad David said. “The second thing is it’s taught me not to take anything for granted, enjoy every second of getting to watch the kids do something that they love and do stuff you love because it can be gone in just an instant.

“I admire her and her passion and determination to still live out her dreams. A lot of people could have made excuses or felt sorry for themselves, but she just refused to listen to people who told her she couldn’t and kept working. She didn’t use it as an excuse; she used it to make her stronger. I can’t imagine anything else tougher in life that you’d go through than that.”

The accident prompted Calhoun County Schools superintendent Joe Dyar to enhance dugouts and field safety on all softball and baseball fields under his jurisdiction. The family is still hoping to see sports safety legislation, sort of an Anna’s Law, enacted statewide.

Tournament MVP Anna Bryant (3) leads the celebration of Pleasant Valley clinching the Calhoun County Volleyball Tournament. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

On the cover: Tournament MVP Anna Bryant (3) is flanked by her Pleasant Valley all-tournament teammates (from left) Mikayla Kendrick, Alisa St. John, Madison Bentley and Savannah Williams. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

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