Placer’s Hiatt leads the North to victory in the Optimist game

Whitney’s Honberger gets MVP nod for Large School game
By: Nick Pecoraro
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SACRAMENTO– Kills, aces, digs and smiles were in abundance Saturday as a pair of Gold Country area players led their respective All-Star teams and came home with some new hardware.

Amy Hiatt of Placer and Kaylie Honberger of Whitney each put together MVP performances in the 35th Annual Optimist Girls Volleyball All-Star Games Saturday at El Camino High School.

Hiatt, a senior headed to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, led the North team in the Small Schools game with 17 kills (unofficially) from the outside hitter position, helping her team beat the South All-Stars in four sets, 23-25, 25-21, 30-28, 25-17.

“It was fun,” said Hiatt. “We all got it together really quick. It was almost like a normal game… Everyone is capable of doing anything. That’s what this team is about. It’s really cool to see all these girls that can do anything.”

Also having strong performances for the North team – coached by Bear River’s Matt MacDonald – were the Bruins’ Callie Bickmore and Colfax’s Halle Neumann, who were named Co-MVPs of the Pioneer Valley League earlier this season.

Neumann’s Falcon teammates Jacy Dean and Sara Detwiler provided some balance in MacDonald’s rotations along with Center’s Nicole Sutton, El Camino’s Sarah Abegglen, Nevada Union’s Bekah McGill, Golden Sierra’s Jenna Campbell and Western Sierra’s Brenna Mellish, just to name a few.

“We wanted to make sure everyone gets in the game,” said MacDonald. “We have, like, four setters, so everyone plays out of position a little. But with a group of All-Stars like this, you can just throw six girls out there and they’ll figure it out.”

The South took the first set behind offense from West Campus’ Maliah Marshall and the Sac-Joaquin Section’s kills leader, Megan Trottier from Division V champion Woodland Christian.

Hiatt found her rhythm in the second set along with solid defense from Placer teammate Emily Wright. Hiatt’s diving pancake dig kept set-point alive for Bickmore to throw down, tying the match at one game apiece.

After long, furious rallies in the third set, Hiatt’s kill tied the set at 28. El Camino’s Emily Wade put down the winning point to give the North a 2-1 lead. Hiatt hammered home the final match point in the fourth to give her team the 3-1 win.

“It’s a cool opportunity and a cool experience for the kids to get one last time to put their school jerseys on before they go off to college,” said MacDonald. “You’ve got Colfax and Bear River kids on the same team. Placer kids playing with kids from Nevada Union. It’s really cool to see.”

Jillian Petnicki from NorCal semifinalist Vacaville Christian took home the South’s MVP award, setting up teammates like Sierra Wohlford (Kennedy), Trinity Barr (Pioneer), Lauren Petersen (Vista del Lago) and Hailey Naldoza (Christian Brothers).

“It was really exciting getting to know all these girls from different schools that you’ve been competing against for the last four years and becoming friends with them,” said Oakmont’s Aly Gallego. “It helps you become a better player… On the court, we’re aggressive, but off the court, we’re just like normal girls.”

In the Large Schools game, the South squad turned away the North with a 3-0 sweep, 25-21, 25-18, 25-16.

Led by an MVP performance from St. Francis libero Sam Chavez, the South used a balanced attack from fellow Troubadour Kathryn Kramer, Sydney Radell and Karmin Brown (Folsom), Amaria Kelley and Dalia Mays (Cosumnes Oaks), Natalia Andrus and Gracie Rowland (Oak Ridge), and Ireland Grubbs and Shelby Young (Pleasant Grove).

In the second set, the five representatives from repeat Division II section champion Ponderosa began to take over. Amanda Yocca, Kendall Kott, Julin Kenison, Brooke Ono and Zoe Zimmerman combined for nearly half of the set’s points for the South team.

The North – coached by Del Oro’s Tricia Vidlund – had strong performances from Inderkum’s Taylor McGee, Rocklin’s Raquel Castro, Woodcreek’s Alyssa Lovell, Del Oro’s Melissa Roberson and Danielle Shumaker, River Valley’s Sarah Hankins and Sophia Alley, and Davis’ Lauren Wilcox and Tiya Kamba-Griffin.

Sierra Foothill League Player of the Year Kaylie Honberger of Whitney took home the North’s MVP honors with double-digit kills.

“It’s super fun to have a different perspective and see how they play on their side of the net,” said Honberger, who will play at California State University, Monterey next year along with the game’s other MVP, Chavez. “People you usually see across are now your teammates, so it’s super cool.”

Every representative got to wear their school’s colors one last time along with a smile in the very crowd-pleasing games.

“It’s fun to be able to celebrate the kids,” said Vidlund. “They’re excited to come out here and they feel honored to represent their teams wearing their jersey.”

During the intermission, the South Large School head coach Mike Yates of Ponderosa was inducted into the Optimist Hall of Fame. Yates has guided the Bruins to back-to-back section titles in 2017 and 2018. He also won a state championship as head coach of Union Mine in 2011.