Brianna Rish knows what it's like to stage a comeback. The River Ridge High School senior has suffered through a multitude of accidents and bad luck and continues to bounce back and excel in sports.
"Brianna was involved in two car accidents and was at the game each night," said Heather Legrand, River Ridge's assistant volleyball coach. "She was hit with a volleyball pole at the end of practice, lost a tooth and was at the game two days later. She never complained once. She always took advice when it was offered and found ways to make herself better."
One of the ways Rish makes herself better is by diving after loose balls.
"On the court, she has developed from a shy, withdrawn girl to a strong, confident player," said head coach Heidi Castelamare. "She dives for balls that others would not even attempt to go for, hitting the ground so the ball stays alive and in play.
"With all the negatives that had happened to her, she didn't miss a session at camp, practice or a game. Brianna made no excuses and always wanted to play for her team and school. Behind her wide smile and upbeat attitude lies a young lady who is driven to do her very best at all times and has learned to play with whatever life deals you."
Going full speed at the expense of her body is the way Rish does things.
"I like to roll and dive for balls," she said. "The bruises and scrapes are reminders that I'm hustling."
Rish's hustle has paid big dividends, both individually and for the Royal Knights. Since being elevated to the varsity squad as a freshman, the defensive specialist has earned all-conference recognition each of the past two seasons. Her 270 digs and inspired play helped lead the Royal Knights to a 24-5 record in 2008.
Another sport Rish excels in is softball.
A four-year varsity starter, the center fielder has earned all-conference honors in both her sophomore and junior seasons. As she begins her senior season, one of her goals is to lead the Knights into the playoffs.
In the classroom, Rish holds a 3.9 GPA. Her curriculum includes honors classes in English, anatomy/physiology, government and economics.
"Brianna Rish is my teacher assistant," said math teacher Christine Christoff. "Daily, she grades papers, run errands, and performs other tasks to assist me. I can always count on her to do things right the first time. She takes her time and completes everything perfectly."
"This week, Brianna and another student have worked as a team to lead the class in a power point presentation on the lymphatic system," said anatomy/physiology teacher Evan Hallwas. "It was exciting to watch her take on leadership responsibilities and multi-task to get this project done. She spoke to the class and did an outstanding job. She not only went through the slides on the system, she verbally added related material that was insightful towards the topic, and answered student questions. In other words, she really knew what she was talking about. I was very proud of her."
In addition to sports and academics, Rish is involved in a number of volunteer efforts. Each summer, she and her volleyball teammates hold an instructional camp to teach younger players the fundamentals of the game.
"We focus on several skills, including hitting, digging and serving," she said. "It's rewarding to see their smile when they accomplish something they couldn't do earlier."
As a member of the Interact Club at school, Rish helps raise money for underprivileged families. She volunteers at the Salvation Army soup kitchen in Port Richey, serving food to the homeless.
"We want to show the adults that teenagers care about others and don't just think about themselves," she said.
"Brianna is an example of what is right with the young people in our community," said Interact Club sponsor Doug Howery.
Teachers, coaches: If you would like to nominate an outstanding student-athlete to be featured in an upcoming In The Community article, contact Cliff Gill at