ST. GEORGE — It does not matter if it's a game of Monopoly or a state championship volleyball match, Blair Bliss won't lose.
"That girl does not know how to lose," said her mom, Wendy Bliss. "If she's on your floor, no ball is going to hit it. ... Her sheer strength and determination — you want her on your side, no matter what you're playing."
Her drive helped the Desert Hills Thunder to a 3A championship this fall. The junior outside hitter isn't the tallest player on the court, but this year's 3A MVP quickly becomes the most dangerous.
"It was a really hard decision to put her on the front row," said Desert Hills head coach Jill Swaney. "She's got such great defensive skills that it's difficult not to just stick her in the back row and let her dig every ball, pass every ball. She's just so good. But then when she gets on the front row, (and) she's so smart. And when I saw her putting balls away like she did, I didn't have a choice."
Bliss may only be 5-foot-7, but she is athletic enough and determined enough to challenge much taller players — and beat them.
"She's the shortest girl out there and she has the most kills," said her mom. "Brook just finds a way. She doesn't play little; she plays big." Part of her what helps her succeed in a game that can favor size of athleticism is her drive.
"She only has one switch," said Swaney with a laugh. "That's a true statement. She gives 100 percent all the time."
In fact, even just calling it a day can be difficult for Bliss, who is also an honor student and varsity basketball player.
"It's very difficult to end practice because Blair (Bliss) is always standing there saying, 'Come on, coach, just one more! I need one more hit!' It's never good enough for her. She's always going 100 percent. She does not stop; she does not quit," said Swaney.
After winning the 3A title in November, Blair thanked her older sister, Brooke, who was an MVP in basketball and now golfs for UVU, for her advice and support. Wendy said that while both girls are gifted athletes, they are completely different players and personalities.
"They are total opposites," said Wendy Bliss. "Brooke is long and lean, but Blair is more compact, faster, stronger and so, so competitive."
Swaney said that Blair's leadership skills don't end when the gymnasium door closes.
"She leads the other girls off the court, and she really just pushes everybody to be the best they can be," said Swaney. "She exudes that same type of leadership by being a good student, by being kind and by being a great all-around person."
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org; TWITTER: adonsports
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company