GREENTOWN - Though few students are fortunate enough to join even the 1,000-club in any sport in their high school career, one Eastern senior is shattering long-standing records and leaving a legacy on her way out.
Eastern’s Emma Sandlin is the all-time assist leader in volleyball, and after notching more than 3,000 in her high school career, the Comet senior has leveraged her success into playing at the next level. Sandlin has committed to Lincoln College, after the university resonated in her mind for two years. She reached the historic milestone on Sept. 29, and said it was a surreal feeling, but a goal she had her eyes on for some time.
“After my sophomore year when I got my 1,000, I made it a goal for myself that I wanted to break all of the Eastern records and get 3,000 before I graduated. So I have worked very hard,” Sandlin said. “It is awesome. I honestly could not have done it without the hitters I have had in the past four years of my high school career.”
Sandlin said she had an advantage on the competition, having played varsity for all four years, and hitting the ground running in her first year of high school sort of propelled her into the player she is today.
When Sandlin’s sister, Delaney Sandlin, played volleyball and graduated from Eastern in 2017, Brooke Haalck was sitting at 1,309 assists after playing all four years. She was determined, she said, to leave a legacy at Eastern.
Now she’s blazed a trail to the top of the mountain. Below is a list of assist record-holders in Eastern volleyball history.
1. Emma Sandlin - 3,000+ assists
2. Lyndsi Pence Parton - 2,300
3. Brook Haalck Walden - 1309
NOTE: all numbers are approximate according to Eastern volleyball
Eastern High School was an easy home for Sandlin to succeed, she said. The teachers, fans and coaches are always lifting up their student-athletes, she said, and creating an environment of both true care and competition.
Sandlin’s favorite memory in her volleyball career is not an individual statistic or milestone for herself, but a team award in winning the sectional her junior year.
“Eastern honestly always pushes me to do my best academically and athletically. The coaching staff is great, and Coach Missy Mavrick and Coach Tara Steele are constantly working to make the team better in general,” Sandlin said. “They are always talking to me about what I can do better for my sets, who needs what set when and everything. It’s awesome.”
Leaving her Comet family will be bittersweet, she said, but she’s looking forward to her next adventure. When Sandlin was a sophomore, she was invited to visit at Lincoln College. Being more than three hours away, she said she liked that it was “far, but not too far.”
But being only a sophomore, Sandlin said she wasn’t ready to commit just yet. Throughout her journey, Sandlin visited other schools, but Lincoln stuck in her mind.
“I go there. I go to the campus. I met with the team and was able to practice with the team. I immediately knew that I loved the team there, I loved the environment, I loved the coaching staff at Lincoln. I actually got in the car after my first visit and I told my mom, ‘I’m going to go here when I commit,’” Sandlin said.
She went on two more visits during her junior year, toured the campus, met with admissions, and even went on a couple “dates” with the volleyball team.
In short, it simply felt like home. Sandlin wants to pursue a career in criminal justice, and Lincoln’s program has everything she was looking for, she said. Moving away from her mom, Donette, is a big step for her, Sandlin said. Her mom is her best friend, so she knew if she was moving away for college, she wanted to be as comfortable as possible in her new environment.
Growing up, Sandlin played softball and was a left-handed pitcher. She took many lessons and was pretty good, she said, but she watched her sister playing volleyball and wanted to be involved in that electric team environment. After attending Munciana Volleyball Club in Yorktown when she was 10, she knew she would have to pick between the two sports.
She took a year off of softball, and she said she never looked back. That’s a good thing for Eastern because Sandlin saw unprecedented success on the volleyball court, and left a legacy in assists that might never be topped.
Mavrick said Sandlin is one of the very best student-athletes to come through Eastern, and the success she brought to the court was unmatched in the history books.
“Very proud of Emma for working hard and reaching her goals. I know she has wanted to play college volleyball since she was little. It has been great having her the last four years. She knows the game well and has just been a constant we can count on. She is smart and knows who we need to go to when we are looking to score. I wish her the best of luck playing at the next level,” Mavrick said.
Though she’s leaving Eastern for Lincoln, Sandlin has one more shot at a sectional title with her Comets this week, and will look to make the most of her final matches in green and gold. The Comets take on Oak Hill on Thursday at 6 p.m.