“I did look at a few other schools, but when I went there it just felt like it was where I was supposed to be,” declared Davenport of Milligan College, a Christian-based liberal arts school founded in 1866. “They have a beautiful campus, a ‘family-based’ volleyball program and an excellent nursing program. This is where I was meant to be.”
A four-year starter for coach Patricia Flowers at Cleveland High, Davenport missed most of last season due to a battle with mononucleosis. Despite the limited playing time, she was still voted as the Best Setter in District 5-AAA and earned her team’s Most Valuable Player honor.
“Jessica and Kayla (Gash) were the only freshmen on the school’s first (TSSAA) substate team four years ago,” remarked coach Flowers. “She has been a big part of our success over the last several years and if we had her all of last season I have no doubt we would have gone a lot farther.”
After the high school season was over, Davenport concentrated on the club season with her as the No. 1 setter for the Choo Choo City team. “I hated missing so much of the high school season, but there wasn’t anything I could do about that, so I used the time to rest before the club season began,” she expressed.
It was there where Milligan coach Doneva Bays found her unexpectedly. “I had been watching Jessica for a couple of years and really liked her a lot but to be honest with you I didn’t recruit her right after the high school season because I thought she’d already signed with somebody.”
“I had already signed most of players for next year but still needed a setter for this class,” coach Bays continued. “I called around and got to talking to some people and when I found out she hadn’t signed I knew I wanted her.”
“She is a great match for us athletically and Milligan is a great match for her academically and spiritually,” the Lady Buffalo coach added. “We are returning a senior (NAIA) All-American setter (Chelsea Spivey), who wants to be a volleyball coach, so she will be able to help teach and prepare Jessica for the college game.”
The preseason favorites in the Appalachian Athletic Conference last year, Milligan has finished in the Top 3 in the league three years running. “We have gotten better each of my five years and with losing just one senior off of last year’s team, I expect even bigger things this year,” coach Bays proclaimed.
Davenport feels confident she’s ready to make the leap to the collegiate game. “Coach Flowers really taught me the game and has prepared me for college play, plus what I’ve learned from coach (Daniel) Millsaps (CHS assistant and Choo Choo City) and coach (Michael) Pittman (Choo Choo City), and the experience I’ve gained by playing for them made this (scholarship) possible,” she stated.
“Her work ethic will carry her far,” proclaimed coach Millsaps. “It’s been a pleasure to work with her and I know she’ll do great on the next level.”
“I still remember her serving aces at that substate match as a freshman and she’s had amazing seasons since,” added coach Flowers. “I hate that she was sick her senior season but she had club play to follow up with and that paid off.”
“She’ll have the best of both worlds at Milligan — her nursing training and getting to play collegiate sports,” the Lady Raider coach added.
“We are not just losing a great setter, but a great all-around player. Her serve earned her a varsity position as a freshman and she’s a great defensive player,” praised Flowers. “Milligan is getting a very versatile setter who is a team player with a strong desire to win.”