Zoe Wooten is ready to do what she wants to do as a senior at Dutchtown High School. For some 17-year-olds, a statement like that is code for "doing less."
Wooten wants to do more of everything, which may be good news for the Griffins’ volleyball opponents.
“This is the year I’ve been waiting for. I’ve taken all my required classes and now I can take the classes I’ve always wanted to take,” Wooten said. “And I get to play all-around. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a hitter. Having an impact on more areas of the game has is my goal. The more I can do, the more I can help the team.”
Just how can the reigning All-Metro MVP for Divisions I-II and a Division I all-state player do more? Wooten has some ideas and so does her coach, Patrick Ricks.
“Zoe had a breakout year for us last year. She is very goal-oriented,” Ricks said. “As a junior, she was physically stronger and more confident. She went from being that player who just hit through the block to being one who added different shots to her game.
“There is more Zoe can do. Playing back row has been frustrating for her at times because she wants every dig and every pass to be perfect. That part of her game is coming along, and I think she realizes it gives us another weapon.”
The 5-foot-10 Wooten helped lead Dutchtown to its first LHSAA tourney berth in a decade last fall with 442 kills, 121 digs, 121 blocks and 57 aces.
From the time she broke into the Griffins lineup late in her freshman year through last year, Wooten has primarily been a front row player. Her job was the win every matchup at the net as either a hitter or a blocker.
That gave Wooten time to work on her defensive skills. Digging opposing serves slammed over the net and passing the ball the closest setter in Dutchtown’s 6-2 offense requires a different skillset.
There is a hint of excitement in Ricks’ voice as he ponders using Wooten as a hitter from the back row. The possibility intrigues Wooten too, but her dreams go beyond volleyball. She carries a weighted grade point average of 4.6 and has an academic load packed with advanced placement classes, including physics.
“I love science. Learning about the brain and how it works is fascinating to me,” Wooten said. “I guess this is a bit unusual, but I want to major in neuropsychology. What is the link to the brain and bipolar disorder, depression or autism? What can we do to help these people. I’d like to be part of that.”
As she ponders ways to improve the lives of others one day, Wooten worked to make herself a volleyball player daily. She joined the Dutchtown powerlifting team last spring to get in some extra training. The Griffins also got something extra. Wooten won a regional title and placed fourth at the Division I LHSAA meet.
“Zoe is so smart and she has a plan for everything, whether it's volleyball or life,” Dutchtown setter Jaela Drumgole said. “She can articulate what she wants now and in the future. If there is something she can’t do or doesn’t understand, she keeps working until she gets it. She is focused on being the best she can be. She wants that for the team too.”
Drumgole and Wooten have that invaluable setter/hitter bond because they have played together since they were 14-year-olds. Ricks said Wooten took added responsibility when Drumgole tore her ACL in Dutchtown’s first match of the 2018 season. And the duo is together again this fall.
Ricks sees Wooten adding to her leadership role. Never an overly vocal leader on the court, Wooten reminds younger plays to be on time, make sure they have their gear for practices and games.
“When Zoe was younger, I think she had a vision for what she wanted to do on the court,” Ricks said. “Now I think her skills are matching that vision. It’s great to see.”