It was the ultimate compliment and the ultimate challenge.
Sydney Hummert embraced them both the same.
She stayed relentless.
An outside hitter on the Quincy Notre Dame volleyball team and the reigning Herald-Whig Player of the Year, Hummert entered the fall season as arguably the area's most dominant offensive weapon. It led to facing double-team blocks and defensive game plans designed to stop her on every swing.
"I know some teams were scared of me and of us and just being the big hitters," Hummert said. "Everybody looked at me as being a big hitter. That kind of gave me some self esteem and gave our team a lift. It made me think I could hit with anyone."
It also forced her to adjust. She couldn't be a free swinger all the time. She had to see the court and understand how to attack defenses.
"I think (QND coach Courtney Kvitle) helped me a lot with that," Hummert said. "If I was getting blocked, she would point out what seams were open. My whole team did the same thing. They were all supportive and would tell me where to hit. I think it was really easy to adjust."
The ability to adjust, adapt and improve allowed Hummert to repeat as the 2019 Herald-Whig Player of the Year. She is the seventh player to repeat as Player of the Year, the first since Quincy High School's Hannah Kvitle in 2008-09.
Beyond the postseason recognition, Hummert felt her game improved even if her stats didn't.
"I think I grew more this year, even if my stats showed better last year," said Hummert, who finished this season with 302 kills after piling up 381 as a junior. "I just think I grew into a bigger hitter. My approach and everything was better. I took my first big step with my arm swing."
There were subtle adjustments in how she used her left arm for balance.
"It allowed me to get more power," Hummert said.
The sound of her kills made that obvious. The ball hit the floor with more speed and more intensity.
"You don't want to get in the way when she gets everything into it," QND setter Maddie Peters said.
Doing so consistently will help Hummert transition to the college game. She has signed with SIU-Edwardsville and takes with her more than 1,000 career kills and more than 700 career digs.
Better yet, it will be the first time in her career she has concentrated solely on volleyball. Hummert is an all-state basketball player who has helped the Raiders off to a 10-0 start this winter.
"I've been playing volleyball forever and there's love for the sport," Hummert said. "I'm super excited for what's next."
She knows there will be challenges and hurdles ahead, especially improving defensively and passing out of the back row. But Hummert has shown no reason to doubt her.
She's embraced every challenge thrown her way.
"It's exciting to think about what's out there and what I'm capable of doing," Hummert said. "I'm ready to go."