Meet the 1988 Deseret News Prep Volleyball MVPs - including the best high school player in recent memory, a short but skilled player who stood out among her taller teammates, a leaper who stood out despite playing a new position, and a middle blocker who may not have be a crushing killer but a consistent competitor.
Meet the foursome of Natalie Williams of Taylorsville, Susan Bird of Spanish Fork, Laurel Simmons of Delta and Teresa Call of Rich.Williams, a 6-foot-1 senior with a 30-inch vertical leap and a jump-and-touch best of 10-7, recently turned down an invitation to join the U.S.
national volleyball team in favor of casting her lot for a collegiate experience at UCLA.
However, international competition - undoubtedly the Olympics is a worthwhile goal - is something that Taylorsville Coach Jean Widdison always mentions when talking about Williams, who is also a basketball standout as well. "The first time I saw her, I knew that volleyball was where she could be successful internationally. And she's such a natural athlete - I can't take any credit - I knew that she was going to be successful."
Widdison points to Williams participation with a U.S. all-star team that competited in Canada this summer as a turning point which enhanced not only her talents but her maturity as well. "Before that, she had semi-untapped potential and she was leaning toward basketball."
After splitting time between outside hitter and setter her first two prep seasons, Williams dominated at any spot on the court this year - middle blocker, outside hitter, backline player - in helping Taylorsville earn its first-ever 4A volleyball title.
Bird, a 5-6 senior setter, wasn't overshadowed by her taller Spanish Fork teammates - in fact, she enhanced their performances. "Technically, she is one of the best setters in the state," said SF Coach Wendy Weaver. "We had four really good hitters and we were able to use them all and able to go to the middle more than most schools."
Bird is just one reason why the 3A champion Lady Dons boasted one of the most mobile squads in transition play as well as one of the most potent offensive attacks. Being recruited by both major colleges and junior colleges, Bird is still deciding where to opt for a one-year-plus learning role with a university volleyball program or a chance to step in and start at a JC.
A 5-11 senior with a 28-inch vertical jump and a ferocious kill, Simmons made the move to middle blocker this year to beef up the heart of the Delta team. "She loves to play outside hitter, but I needed her quickenss," said Delta Coach Lori Bevan of her 2A titlist squad's leader in scoring, hitting and receiving serves.
"In the 2A tournament, she really pulled the team together with her leadership and made her teammates all want to win," said Bevan. "She was the person who would always give us the spark."
A 5-7 junior middle blocker, Call was a model of consistency for 1A champion Rich. For example, in the playoffs, she missed only one serve during the entire tournament. And in addition to her talents up at the net, she was considered by Rich Coach Cindy Stuart as being the second-strongest along the back row.
"She is not a real strong hitter," Stuart said. "People don't pick her out of a crowd because she doesn't hammer the ball."
The four MVPs, as well as the first- and second-team selections, were the leading vote-getters in balloting done by the coaches of the top finishing teams at the state tournaments. The participating coaches were asked to vote for standout players not only in their respective tournaments but in regular- season region competition as well.
Nearly 180 players from all four size classifications received votes. The top vote-getters compiled the first and second teams, with the next-leading vote-getters earning honorable-mention status.