LaFayette’s All-Around Girl: Toniya Collier
Published 12:28 am Saturday, October 7, 2023
Every great program has to start somewhere. LaFayette’s volleyball program at the start of its construction, but a firm foundation has been built thanks in part to one excellent carpenter.
It took three seasons for Chase Lewis to get his first win as the LaFayette coach. Through all the losses, Toniya Collier was a constant for the program. It is hard to put into words what Collier has meant for the volleyball team and LaFayette High School.
“Everything boss,” Lewis said with a laugh. “Just a leader. She’s going to be truly missed next year. I think she’s done a good job of just creating a culture. I believe it’s just going to keep building.”
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Lewis and LaFayette added a few wins this season, which was obviously a big payoff for the hard work that had been done within the program, but you would think that the losing early on would have been hard on the team. That just was not the case. Collier took joy in doing the hard work that it took to build the program.
“It really wasn’t that tough,” Collier said. “The way I see it, if you put hard work and dedication into this sport and program you will continue to do it.”
Collier’s love for the sport never wavered. She even got busy recruiting for the team. Last season, LaFayette played several games with just five players. This season, the Bulldogs had enough players to add a JV team.
“It feels good to see people just get out on the court and learn how to play the game of volleyball,” Collier said. “I don’t care about the scoreboard. As long as I’m getting on the court and playing with them, I don’t care.”
Collier is the team’s captain and the most vocal player on the court. Oftentimes she can be seen as a coach on the floor. Collier and assistant coach Kim Slay spend time sending instructional videos into the team’s group chat, and they each have taught Lewis a lot about the game.
“She’s been here at every volleyball thing since sixth grade,” Lewis said about Collier. “She teaches me a lot. I learned a lot from them, and I just hope that they learned something from me as well.”
Collier began playing volleyball as soon as she could, she even spent time around the team before she was allowed to play. Collier began acting as a member of LaFayette’s volleyball team in sixth grade. She went to all of the practices and games, but she could not participate until her seventh-grade year.
“She never missed a practice,” Lewis said. “She’s very vocal as far as getting here, getting to work, working on the things she needs to work on and also letting me know the things that everybody else needs to work on.”
Now, Collier’s high school volleyball career is nearing its end. LaFayette plays its last match of the regular season against Valley on Oct. 9. Then, the area tournament will wrap up the season.
Collier is not going to be idle after volleyball season, she will just transfer her attention to other sports. Last season, Collier won the MVP award in volleyball, track and basketball.
She wants to set new expectations for track this season.
“I want to be one of the fastest to remind people where I come from, the school that I go to, that’s just a name,” Collier said. “I want them to know who I am at the end of my school term as a LaFayette Bulldog.”
Collier’s two favorite sports are volleyball and track, but she knows that she is going to miss volleyball when it wraps up in the next couple of weeks.
“Volleyball is my sport, it really is,” Collier said. “I love the game of volleyball.”
Collier along with Lewis has helped to build a foundation for LaFayette’s volleyball program. Now, Collier just hopes that the program continues to grow and get more exposure after her departure.
“I want to see it get better and better,” Collier said. “I want to see them work hard to get the program more out there for the school.”
Collier does not know what the future holds yet. College, coaching or even continuing play at the next level are all possibilities. One thing is for sure, Collier is leaving LaFayette’s volleyball program in a better place than she found it.