Fun, lively, creative, vibrant, easy-going and a role model.

Ask anyone who spends time with Rylee Smith, even if it's only 10 minutes, and you'll get one of these words or a synonym to describe the senior from O'Gorman High School.

Oh, and she loves volleyball.

The outside hitter has been a mainstay in the O'Gorman varsity lineup for the past two seasons, but her passion for volleyball started in fourth grade at Anne Sullivan .

"Our first day we started practicing volleyball and I just thought it was so cool because I had never even really heard of [volleyball]," Smith said. "So when my mom came to pick me up, I told her, 'this is my sport.' Literally, I told her that day, 'this is the sport I want to play when I get older.'"

When high school came around, Smith started to excel. During her sophomore year, she started getting playing time with the junior varsity and varsity squads at O'Gorman. Playing with better players and stiffer competition only helped her step up her game.

"As I practiced and played more with the varsity team, I feel it really helped improve my skills," Smith said. "It was just a higher intensity game."

The extra work and effort doesn't just come naturally. Smith had an extra gear and drive that helped motivate her to put in the work.

"My team," Smith said. "I've been with them for a really long time, and we're such a close team. We've grown up together, and it's really nice to be out there playing the game of volleyball with them."

But what separates Smith from the rest is her character. The breadth and depth of the person behind the 5'10" volleyball player is what has everyone so fond of Smith.

"She's just such a happy-go-lucky person with such a mature outlook on life," said O'Gorman varsity volleyball coach Julie Kolbeck. "There's an easy-going way about her that makes you feel as though things are going to be okay."

As a senior, her volleyball career at O'Gorman will eventually come to an end. But life goes on for Smith as she hopes to attend one of a handful of schools--Creighton, Nebraska or Augustana--to study and become a doctor.

While college likely means the end of her competitive volleyball career, she doesn't plan to give up the sport entirely.

"I would love to keep playing, but I'm also very committed to academics," Smith said. "So I'd prefer to go to a good school over being stressed about having to play volleyball constantly. As much as I love it, and I'll play it intramurally, I won't play it as my main goal for college."

Rylee Smith and Coach Julie Kolbeck

Congratulations to Rylee Smith, our Athlete of the Week.