Hall’s leadership stands out in improbable career

The middle-blocker from Dothan, Alabama led the Crimson Tide from the beginning of the season to the end with her infectious personality on and off the court. But the path to Cidavia Hall’s success has not been smooth.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what volleyball was,” Hall said. “I was a basketball kind of girl, but volleyball was more exciting. I still love basketball, I still do, but [volleyball] was new to me, because I had a late start. I was like a kid in the candy store. I just wanted to know more, prove more and learn more about it, and that is why I stuck with it instead of basketball.”

Hall continued to show her athleticism in both basketball and volleyball. In her senior season at Dothan High School, Hall was named MVP of her volleyball team after Dothan High School won the Area Championship. In basketball, Hall led the state in defensive rebounds and blocks.

“She is very athletic and was successful at both sports,” Jennifer Gray, Hall’s mother, said. “One of her coaches asked her if she wanted to try volleyball, and Cece said that she didn’t want to do it. I remember telling her, ‘just try it and see,’ and she tried it and liked and felt like she was good at it.”

Good is an understatement. Hall dominated while she played volleyball in high school. In 2013, Hall set the school record for most kills for a season. Although her success was evident, Hall faced obstacles she had to persevere through. One of these obstacles came during her time at Wallace State.

“I was at my JUCO [junior college] first, and I was told that I would not make it to a Division I school,” Hall said. “That was never the plan, and that was never something that was told to me.”

Hall once again excelled in competition. In her freshman campaign, Hall led the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) in hitting percentage (.631), kills (506), kills per set (3.86), blocks (207) and blocks per set (1.58) and was awarded the ACCC player of the year. Hall played a total of 82 matches for Wallace State Community College, and led the Lions to two appearances in the national tournament. Even after all of the accolades, Hall still could not believe Alabama would be interested in her.

“When I first came [to Alabama], I was confused and I did not know why they wanted to talk to me,” Hall said. “[Coach] Freiberg came to my practice, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is serious.’ Then Coach [Allen] came to my game, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is really serious.’

While she was visiting the University, Allen made Hall an offer.

“My JUCO coach had to go upstairs and ask him again because I did not believe that [Allen] actually offered to me” Hall said. “I feel like this is just a God thing. He had it planned out, and I just trusted him and trusted his word.”

Faith and her will to persevere pushed Hall to new heights when she joined the Crimson Tide –  something her teammates noticed the first time she stepped on campus.

“She’s just one of those people where you just click with automatically,” former teammate Brittany Thomas said. “There was no awkward period. She just fit right in with the team and the dynamic of the team so effortlessly. She worked so hard, and watching her develop and grow pushed us to develop and grow. Her vocalizing how much she wanted to grow pushed us all to be better.”

Thomas said that Hall was a leader on the team from the moment she arrived – something that is very unusual for a transfer. She also said how natural it was for Hall to step into that leadership role – a role that Hall said was necessary in order to help the team.

“Initially when I got here, I felt like I was already playing that role,” Hall said. “It was just natural for me before I was named team captain. I was true to who I am. I knew that if I pour into my teammates, they were going to pour back into me and make me a better player. I feel that the responsibility is not hard at all for me. It begins with a good support system and then it filters through the rest of the team.”

The support of her teammates was something Thomas commented on highly when talking about Hall.

“I just remember not feeling good about a game that I played, how much I contributed and myself in general,” Thomas said. “Cece was there to give a big hug that I needed and the squeeze that filled whatever hole I had dug myself into. She told me that it was going to be alright, there was another game and that she believes in me. Her telling me that she believes in me was exactly what I needed to hear, and it made me feel like I wasn’t by myself.”

That support and love for her teammates really showed in Alabama’s successful season, highlighted by being nationally ranked for the first time in program history. Players and coaches pointed to Hall’s passion for her team and her continued spirit to never give up as reason why the team was successful.

“Cece has been the heart and soul of this team emotionally and wears it on her sleeve,” interim coach Ryan Freeburg said. “Cece has worked her tail off. She’s a player that has had as much adversity from an injury’s standpoint. She’s had several surgeries and setbacks, but she just never quit working and you are starting to see that on the court. [Hall] was a player you hoped for but you just didn’t know, and she has done an unbelievable job of just being solid for us.”

Hall hangs up her No. 6 jersey, but not after leaving behind a major mark on Alabama volleyball. Hall’s .374 hitting percentage ranks fifth all time in program history, and her 1.06 blocks per set rank her 12th all time and is the highest ratio of any Alabama player since 2006. But the biggest mark Hall will leave will be in the culture and the mindset of the program, something she wanted to impact from the beginning.

“We got to see who we could be and [the team] can take that and bring it forward, and that’s exactly what I wanted,” Hall said. “I’m just happy that they got a glimpse of it and a taste of it.”

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