Great Scott

Sophomore superstar proves to be the ultimate fighter

The Spectrum

At 6-feet tall, she owns the court, spiking home winners, fighting off blocks and encouraging her teammates.

She's had to scrap for everything in life. It's been that way since day one.

Liz Scott, a sophomore outside hitter for the women's volleyball team, almost did not survive her birth.

She wasn't breathing when she was born. Her family and the doctors were terrified. Eventually, they fixed her breathing problem. She survived.

But everything wasn't perfect.

"Once they got her breathing, the doctors approached me and said, 'now there is another issue: she doesn't have five fingers on her right hand,'" said Polly Scott, Liz's mother. "My response was: 'she's fine, she's breathing, she's beautiful!'"

Scott underwent surgery to have her under-developed hand separated into four fingers. It was a procedure that allowed her to live a normal life with the use of both hands. It was something she refused to let define her in life. Things that came easy for kids growing up became challenges for Scott - challenges she wasn't afraid to overcome.

"As a child, she was bothered most by the fact that she couldn't do the parallel bars at the playground," Polly said. "We told her to keep trying and get stronger and one day she might be able hang on. I remember the day she came home from elementary school and said, 'I did it!' I believe that was the beginning of the rest of her life."

Scott went on to live a normal childhood. A multi-sport athlete growing up, she played basketball, lacrosse and soccer. But Scott fell in love with volleyball. The moment she picked it up, she knew it was for her.

Her under-developed hand didn't stop her from thriving in the sport.

"When Liz was in elementary school, she came to us and said she wanted to play volleyball," Polly said. "We found that very interesting as she had never been exposed to the game. She didn't know anything about it. We told her to just go and do her best. She had to learn somewhere. After a few weeks of tryouts, they posted who made the team and she didn't see her name under the 13-age bracket. She didn't think she made the team. One of the coaches approached her and said she should look under the 14-age bracket."

She went throughout her school years playing above her age bracket, even starting on the varsity volleyball team in the ninth grade at Canandaigua High School.

It wasn't an easy task.

In order to be on the varsity team at a young age, the school required the athletes take and pass a state test showing they could handle the physical requirements to play. The coach allowed her to skip the arm-hang portion of the test due to her hand. However, a member on the team who played the same position as Scott made a big deal about Scott not taking that part of the test.

"She came home in tears and told us the story," Polly said. "It became quite embarrassing to Liz while very deeply hurting her feelings. She then said that she had to take the test, to prove herself. She wanted to take the challenge to prove that she earned the position fairly. She didn't want to be given anything because her situation was different."

She took the test. Arm shaking, hand slipping and using basically only one hand. She dug deep and passed the test with flying colors.

She hung on longer than any other child, surprising everybody but herself.

"Even though she didn't know if she could do it physically, she knew mentally she had to tough through it," Polly said. "That's who Liz is."

Undeterred by her doubters, Scott's dominance on the volleyball court continued. She was eventually recruited by Duke, Temple and LSU. But none of the three juggernaut universities were able to woo Scott away from the Empire State. She decided to remain in Western New York.

"I chose to play volleyball here for the coaches," Scott said. "They said I was going to grow with the program, which was a major interest for me compared to playing for a program that has already been established. I wanted to make a difference in the school, and Buffalo was the winner."

But the coaches had a little bit of help. Scott's older sister, Margaret, was already attending UB. That was the icing on the cake.

Margaret has been a huge pillar of support for Scott. Growing up, Scott looked up to her big sister, whether it was on the playing field (Margaret made her exploits on the softball diamond) or off it. Even though the demands of being a Division I student athlete equal little time for the Scott sisters to hang out, the bond is unbreakable as ever.

"We don't see each other as often as I'd like, since both of us have hectic schedules, but it's nice to know when we do get home at the end of the day that we have each other if we need anything," Margaret said. "I'm sure I'm biased since we've been living together for all our lives, but she's as close to the perfect roommate as anyone would be able to find."

Today, even though Margaret is the older sister, she's now inspired by Scott drive.

"When we were kids, I always thought she would look up to me as her older sister, but I must have had the roles reversed," Margaret said. "Liz is my role model, someone I am now modeling my behavior after and someone I strive to be like because she is an utterly incredible person."

Scott has taken all of the support, hardship and determination and churned out something special on the court at Buffalo under head coach Todd Kress.

According to Scott, it was an easy adjustment.

"It hasn't really challenged me that much," Scott said. "I have to tweak my blocking a little because I have a smaller hand. But it's nothing major. I set a little different; I have to use two ringers, but it works. It hurts blocking but nothing [too] major. You have to have a little bit of pain to play Division I sports."

After a sensational freshman season, Scott was named to the 2011 Mid-American Conference All-Freshman team. She has averaged over three kills per set and has hit .260 during her time at Buffalo.

With such great hitting percentage and attacking numbers, Scott has made it one of her goals to break the all-time volleyball kills record at Buffalo.

"If I am [the record holder], it will be a nice surprise," Scott said. "But I strive for the MAC Tournament. What's important is the MAC Tournament. That was a goal I set before I even came to Buffalo. That would be an awesome prize at the end; it'd be the cherry on top."

Today, even though her disability hasn't defined her in the physical sense, it has impacted her mentally.

"It's what I know," Scott said. "It makes me 'me.' Maybe I wouldn't be as determined as I am now, you never know. I don't think it has changed me in a negative way. I think it has changed me in a positive way."