Growing up and going to school at Dover, Sammie Strausbaugh admits she's "a Pennsylvania" girl.

So the decision she faced a little over a year ago of whether or not to leave for Florida wasn't exactly easy, no matter how much the women's volleyball coaches at Jacksonville University pushed for Strausbaugh to bring her talents south.

The decision was made harder when those same coaches resigned after the 2011 season, during Strausbaugh's senior year at Dover. But Strausbaugh looked at the bright side of her situation.

"Honestly, I looked at my parents the night I got the call (about the coach resigning), I said 'Look, it's gonna be fine. I still love the school and the girls that are there,'" Strausbaugh said.

Strausbaugh
Strausbaugh

She kept a similar attitude when Jacksonville dropped its physical education major, Strausbaugh's original choice of study.

"That made me panic a little bit because I thought I might have to go to a different school when that happened," she said. "But I ended up choosing exercise science because I could major in that and still go into teaching if I wanted to but it could give me more options with jobs."

She ultimately chose Jacksonville, an NCAA Division I school with a student population of just over 3,000, in part because she would get the opportunity to play all over the court. It's something bigger college volleyball programs weren't offering the 5-foot, 8-inch Strausbaugh.

"I definitely think if I was bigger I could've went to a bigger school. Some schools told me. ... I used to be a setter (in high school). .... I had some schools tell me they would only take me as a setter because I'm so small. But I wanted to be a hitter. I wanted to be able to play," she said.

Success: The results of Strausbaugh's decision -- both on and off the court -- have been impressive.

Dover grad Sammie Strausbaugh, a freshman at Jacksonville University, competed in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Sand Volleyball National
Dover grad Sammie Strausbaugh, a freshman at Jacksonville University, competed in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Sand Volleyball National Championships this weekend in Alabama. (File photo)

This past fall during the team-competition season, she earned Atlantic Sun Conference Freshman of the Year honors. Strausbaugh was also named the A-Sun Scholar Athlete of the Year after accumulating a 4.0 GPA in the fall semester.

And over the weekend, she and playing partner Taylor Nyquist were one of 20 pairs from around the country that competed in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Sand Volleyball National Championships, a doubles tournament held on the beach of Gulf Shores, Ala.

The Jacksonville duo of Strausbaugh and Nyquist, a 6-foot red-shirt sophomore, went 29-3 as a pair this spring on the sand. It's quite remarkable considering Strausbaugh is just a freshman who hadn't played much on the sand until this spring.

"One thing people don't realize is sand volleyball is definitely different than indoor," she said. "We're two-sport athletes. It takes so much patience and you have to learn a lot of new things. It's the most frustrating sport I've played."

Strausbaugh and Nyquist didn't fare so well over the weekend. The pair went 1-3 in pool play to miss qualifying for the 16-team championship bracket. But it's not like they weren't competitive. Although they won three of their 10 total matches, the seven losses were by an average of 5.9 points.

Just getting started: Had Strausbaugh opted to attend a larger school with a more well-known reputation on the volleyball scene, she likely wouldn't have had the same opportunities to succeed like those at Jacksonville.

Either way, she's thrived in every opportunity presented thus far at the college level. And she's only just getting started.

"I was a little bit worried about my height. I'm smaller compared to most people. But I adjusted well," Strausbaugh said.

"I shouldn't say this but I still surprise myself. I'm surprised when I get awards and I'm surprised when I do good things."

-- Reach John Walk at jwalk@yorkdispatch.com.