For recent Centennial High graduate Savannah Smith, finding the right fit for college hinged on two things.

It needed to be a school that desired Smith’s skill as a volleyball player and one that also offered a degree in therapeutic riding instruction.

Fortunately for the talented outside hitter/ middle blocker, things fell into perfect place this past school year and she was offered a scholarship to play volleyball at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, a school that offers a degree in her chosen major.

Smith reached out to RMC because it was one of the few schools where she could study therapeutic riding instruction. But the perfect match wasn’t made until Smith impressed the school’s volleyball coach during a practice session in October.

“She was like, ‘Oh my gosh will you sign right now with me?’” Smith said.

Smith, who led the Golden Hawks with 346 in blocks this past season, wants to learn to help special education and disabled kids and wounded veterans through her field of study.

Part of Smith’s education process will include her earning PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) certification.

“I’ve been obsessed with horses since I was a little kid,” Smith said. “In high school, seeing the special education kids around and seeing how happy they were all the time made me happy. The horse has kind of the same gait as a human so when the kids (who can’t walk) get on a horse, it’s like walking again. They love it.”

Smith made Centennial fans happy with the way she played throughout her stellar prep career.

As a freshman, she helped the Golden Hawks reach the Central Section Division I semifinals and earn a berth in the state playoffs.

For her efforts Smith was named Centennial’s rookie of the year and was All-Area honorable mention.

A year later Smith once again helped carry the Golden Hawks deep into the section playoffs and was chosen second team All-Area.

She sat out her junior season due to personal reasons but came back better than ever this past year and was voted team MVP and was named first team All-Area.

“It wasn’t until this year that I felt like the dominant force,” Smith said. “We didn’t have height this year at all so me and another girl really had to step up and take reigns. Especially when things got bad, I knew it was all on me. It was nerve-wracking but at the same time your team is looking up to you to get it done and you have to.”

Smith has only been playing volleyball competitively since seventh grade.

She began playing on a club team at age 14.

At 6 feet tall, Smith is an imposing force at the net, but she considers her biggest strength as a player to be her on-court vocal leadership skills.

“There’s not a lot of people as loud as I am and straightforward,” Smith said. “That’s one of the reasons the (RMC) coach asked me to play with them because they don’t have girls that tell the others when they need to get it together and stuff like that.”

Smith hopes to start right away for the Battlin’ Bears. Moving to Montana, far from Bakersfield doesn’t concern Smith.

“I think everything will be fine because I already have a family there,” Smith said. “Like I have my team so I’ll have people that will help get me through.”

If everything goes according to plan, in a few years it will be Smith aiding others to get through their struggles.

“I really want to help special education kids and veterans who have done so much for our country,” Smith said.

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