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The queens of the court
Uhland MVP: Because 2,519 assists, 681 digs, 383 sets played, 270 aces, 133 solo blocks, the foundation of a program and a partridge in a pear tree say so.
An athlete's vision is a lifeline to success.
Vision in sports isn't just about seeing what physically lies ahead on the playing field — it's a combination of anticipation, being aware of the unknown and trusting in a team.
In football, it's a quarterback knowing his receiver's routes and throwing the ball to a spot where he must trust that teammate to make a play.
On the basketball court, a point guard must possess quick decision-making skills, knowing exactly when to pull up for a jump-shot or dish it off to an open player.
Then there's volleyball, where a setter is counted on to make no-look passes, find holes in the defense to pick up dump-kills, dig up balls from hitters that arrive with high velocity right at head level and be the catalyst for the entire team.
And nobody in the Mid-Valley did it better this season than East Nicolaus High senior Haley Uhland.
"You have to run the court and be the leader," Uhland said. "You put a lot of trust in your team."
Part of the Spartans' version of the "Big 3" in 2009, Uhland's main job was setting up her fellow All-Area teammates, Stephanie Hagins (now at Washington State) and Juliet Conant (A-D's Player of the Year last season).
In 2010, she did it all.
She dished out 786 assists, ranked second on the team in kills with 229, recorded a team-leading 246 digs and 20 percent of her serves fell for aces.
For her accomplishments, Uhland is the Appeal-Democrat's 2010 All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year, her second straight appearance on the first team.
Quite the feat for a girl who wanted nothing to do with the sport when she was little. She watched her older sister Alyse play, but the self-described "tomboy" was more interested in taking opposing pitchers yard on the softball diamond.
"I couldn't like the same thing as her," Uhland said laughing. "At first I thought, 'Nah, that's too girly.' But then she told me to try it and I got more into it."
Smart move for the All-Northern Section playmaker, who took on a more prominent role for coaches Christopher Abruscato and Alecia Bivert-Geach this season.
When they took over the program in Uhland's sophomore season, the two coaches had one less thing to worry about after seeing the way the setter handled herself as a leader on and off the court.
"If I could have six of her, I would," Bivert-Geach said. "She's coaching on the court as much as I'm coaching on the sidelines. She was a key component to making my job a lot easier."
A four-year varsity starter, Uhland was more pass-first as a setter in her first three seasons. When the coaching staff approached her before this year, they told Uhland she would have to be the ultimate utility player.
She not only ran the offense, but was the team's top hitter alongside fellow all-area player Emily Toledo. Defensively, she led the team in digs and blocks (20 solo).
"She had to go the extra mile to give us the results we got this year," Abruscato said. "To be a setter you have to think ahead and be able to anticipate. She was able to do that. She was able to see what was needed."
That play-making ability led the Spartans to the state playoffs in 2008 and 2009, plus a trip to the postseason in 2010.
To get to this point in her young career, Uhland said she has had plenty of help from her coaches, family and most of all, teammates.
After all, she doesn't get assists if her teammates aren't there to finish the play.
"Freshman year, I was definitely scared, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, what am I doing out here?'" Uhland said. "Sophomore year was when I realized we could do something special."
She was named team captain that season and held the title for three years. Over her four seasons, Uhland recorded 2,519 assists, 681 digs, 270 aces and 133 solo blocks.
Playing in the club volleyball scene since age 12 gave her a leg-up when she took over the setter position as a freshman in 2007.
Uhland split time between North Valley Juniors, Feather River and now plays for Cal Synergy (Roseville) under the tutelage of 2008 Olympian Gabe Gardner.
Her main goal now is earning a spot for an NCAA squad by garnering interest through club play.
Uhland's absence is going to be felt next season no doubt. Bivert-Geach and Abruscato have to do something this offseason that neither has had to do in their three seasons — coach up the setter.
"Without her running the team it will be a whole new coaching experience next year," Bivert-Geach said. "It will be like starting from scratch."
Brenna McDonald, Sr., Sutter
The Huskies' "go-to girl," according to coach Ann Reynolds, McDonald led Sutter to the Northern Section title game with 328 kills and a .264 hitting percentage.
McDonald was an All-Northern Section selection and was also selected to play in the North vs. South All-Star game at Butte College.
"There were a couple of games where I told (setter) Sam (Foster) to keep giving Brenna the ball," Reynolds said. "I knew either it would be a kill or at least be in."
Emily Toledo, Sr., East Nicolaus
No more "Big 3" this season, but Toledo teamed with Uhland to become the "Dynamic Duo."
Toledo hit a gaudy .481 with 493 kills and tallied 189 digs defensively. She was a First Team All-Mid Valley League selection.
"She improved leaps and bounds," Abruscato said. "This year as a senior she realized her responsibilities and stepped up."
Caroline Meyers, Sr. Colusa
The cheer of "rooooof!" filled Colusa High's gym a lot this season.
A multi-sport talent, Meyers was a wall for the Redskins in the middle with 69 blocks this season, 50 of which were solo. She was also the team leader with 153 kills.
"She is very physically dominant on the court," said coach Erika Lemenager. "It was fun to watch her power."
Taylor Massengale, So., R.V.
Just a sophomore at 6-foot-2, Massengale was a wall for the opposition to hit through, and offensively, she was equally impressive with a swing that could land her at a Division-I university.
Coach Jenny Dove said Massengale's biggest obstacle she overcame this offseason was gaining a sense of self-confidence.
"Since her freshman year, I always said she will be the most dominant senior in the area," Dove said. "There is no doubt she will be the focal point of my team. Physically, she improved in every match this season."
Samantha Foster, Sr., Sutter
It's quite the lineage: Kari Post, Kayli Paulucci, Kamalei Clifton and now Foster.
Being the setter for the Huskies is a lot to live up to, but Foster flourished as a senior with 774 assists and was the Huskies' vocal leader.
"She expects perfection out of herself," Reynolds said. "She was one of those leaders who pulled the team together and kept everybody focused."
Allison Foster, Sr., Sutter
Rolling around on the gym floor, taking body shots from a volleyball and giving up life and limb are all routine for liberos, the unsung heroes of a volleyball team.
When Foster wasn't picking up one of her 309 digs, she filled in for her twin sister Sam (above), at setter.
"She stepped in and made the libero position hers," Reynolds said. "(Liberos) don't get the recognition they deserve like some other positions."