By Joe Naiman
Michaela Owens became Ramona High School’s starting middle blocker in 2010 due to her volleyball astuteness rather than her height, and when 5’10” junior Kelsie Whitten was ready for this year’s varsity, the 5’6” Owens lost her starting job through no fault of her own.
Owens’ versatility as a reserve earned her considerable playing time throughout the year, and on Nov. 18 it earned her the Bulldog Award during the team’s post-season awards banquet, which was held at the Hanson Elementary School multi-purpose room.
“She had the toughest job of all because she was the backup of just about everything,” said Head Coach Connie Halfaker. “In practice she had to be all over the place.”
The other awards are voted upon by the players, but the coaches selected the Bulldog Award recipient. “So many kids are deserving,” Halfaker said.
Owens received the Bulldog Award for her off-court as well as her on-court contributions. The considerations included her attitude after losing her starting position.
“She handled it so very well, and she was a leader on the bench. She was supportive,” Halfaker said. “She was a true teammate, a true utility player.”
Last year Halfaker made Owens a starting middle blocker due to her knowledge of the position, which gave Owens the advantage over taller players. Ramona’s other middle blocker, 5’9” Alexis Sharpe, started both in 2010 and 2011.
Owens was still a substitute middle blocker.
“We had her as a middle and she did a good job,” Halfaker said.
Owens also relieved starting setter Mikayla Derochie and starting libero Nicole Darrough.
“She can play anything,” Halfaker said of Owens. “She’s able to be placed anywhere on the court at any given time.”
Derochie was voted as the team’s Most Valuable Player, Darrough received Outstanding Defensive Player and Team Inspirational Player honors, and Sharpe took the Outstanding Offensive Player award.
Abby Roulier received the Outstanding Improvement accolade, and Jennah Hickle was voted as the team’s Floor Leader.
Ramona had five seniors in 2011: Owens, Sharpe, Darrough, outside hitter Samantha Waelchli and defensive specialist Jessica Berman.
“I’m just sad to see this group go,” Halfaker said.
The banquet also saw the presentation of all-academic team honors to junior and senior varsity players with at least a 3.0 grade point average.
Eight of Ramona’s 10 juniors or seniors achieved the threshold; Sharpe led the squad with a 4.32 grade point average while the lowest of the eight qualifying players had a GPA of 3.94.
“That’s pretty amazing,” Halfaker said.
The awards banquet also saw the presentation of junior varsity and novice awards. The JV team’s Bulldog Award went to Christina Barrameda.
Makayla Torsak and Callie Guasti shared the JV’s Most Effective Offensive Player award, Cassidy Shields and Hannah Seits were co-recipients of the Most Inspirational honor, Sophie Proctor received Most Effective Defensive Player, Alex Kershaw was given the Most Effective Server award, and Cory Zuniga took home the Most Improved honor.
The novice Bulldog Award recipient was Renee Chambers. Stephanie Kovach and Alicia Podoris shared Most Inspirational recognition, Amanda Kotas received both Most Effective Offensive Player and Most Effective Server, Claire Hagan was the Most Effective Defensive Player, and Kayla Taylor received the Most Improved award.