Sydney Cross-Watts lives in Denver's Five Points neighborhood near downtown, but she drives an hour to the outer suburbs to attend Regis Jesuit High School.
“I grew up with a single mom, and she always told me to go to college,” said Cross-Watts, a senior. She chose Regis for the opportunities.
And it looks like the commitment paid off: The athlete, who has played volleyball since the fourth grade, got recruited to play for Trinity College in Connecticut. She couldn't afford a recruiter, so she sent out emails and video herself.
When she was younger, she played basketball and did swimming, too, but she got serious about volleyball in sixth grade, making it her main sport.
“I chose it because I thought it'd give me a better opportunity, because not a lot of black girls play volleyball in Colorado,” Cross-Watts said. “Usually, when they look at a black girl, they think she'd play basketball. I wanted to change that. People usually think black girls are going to be mean or not very coachable, but that's not really my personality.”
Next year, she'll continue playing the sport that has “always been my happy place,” she said.
“Coming from Five Points, it wasn't always a great place,” Cross-Watts said. “Volleyball gave me opportunities I wouldn't have otherwise.”
'She’s a really good leader, and her court presence is very known. She works hard — she’s driven, both academically and athletically. She’s very vocal, and she holds people accountable.'
— Brianne Morley, Regis Jesuit head volleyball coach
Who's your favorite athlete?
Probably Michael Jordan because of his work ethic, how hard he'd work every game, and he was a team man.
What would a perfect performance be in volleyball?
Just 100% working as a team, everyone doing their jobs, great energy, great chemistry.
What's your favorite class?
Architecture. I've never taken a class like that. It's forced me to be creative and build my own home (through) a computer program. You start from scratch — it's super cool.
What do you like to do away from sports and school?
I like to sing R&B and gospel. I cook. I work as a lifeguard at an indoor pool in my local community.
What's something people seem not to understand about volleyball?
Even though it's not a contact sport, it is really hard on the body. You do have to work really hard even though you're not running up and down the court like in basketball.
What are your goals for the future?
I want to have an actual career. At first, I was thinking physical therapy, but now I'm thinking of being a lawyer … Maybe a medical lawyer with a criminal focus. I want to be able to help those in my community and be able to fight (injustices in) the justice system.
Cross-Watts has played 34 sets this season, making 78 kills, 39 digs and 29 total blocks, with 10 of those being solo blocks.
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