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Girls’ Volleyball Dream Team: CdM’s Harris the ideal student-athlete

By: David Carrillo PeñalozaContact Reporter
December 26, 2015 | LA Times

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 1.02.26 PMThree days after Jessie Harris’ senior season with the Corona del Mar High girls’ volleyball team ended, she was back in the gym.

There wasn’t much time in mid-November for Harris to reflect on her stellar four-year career with the Sea Kings. She began practicing with her Laguna Beach Volleyball Club under-18 team, which next month will look to earn a spot at the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships.

While volleyball has been a big part of her life since sixth grade, there’s more to Harris than volleyball. Yeah, she’s heading to Princeton to play volleyball, but there’s a reason why Harris chose the Ivy League school over other opportunities at Pacific 12 Conference schools.

“[Princeton] balances social life, athletics and academics really well and allows me to have the full college experience,” said Harris, who wants to go to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.

As much as Harris stood out on the court, she’s just as good or even better in the classroom. Her kills per set average almost matched her 4.3 cumulative grade-point average at CdM.

Harris is the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year in girls’ volleyball. She really did it all for the Sea Kings. She set, she hit, she blocked, she dug, she served, and she led.

“I cannot imagine any team in the country asking a player to do more than [what] we asked her to do this year … and she never disappointed,” Sea Kings Coach Steve Astor said of Harris, who played outside hitter, setter and opposite throughout the season. “Jessie Harris is the best leader I have ever coached, and I have been very lucky to coach some phenomenal leaders throughout my career. She would often take it upon herself to talk [to] the team [during] important moments in a match, and always seemed to say the right thing to affect immediate change. More importantly, she was the perfect example of what servant leadership should look like. She never had to be asked to do the simple tasks like taking down nets [or] sweeping the floor.

“She is one of the most competitive players I have been around, and simply refuses to lose in anything she does. She is also the smartest athlete I have been around, and Princeton has no idea just how great of a player and person [the Tigers] are getting.”

Princeton is getting the ideal student-athlete in Harris, who earned All-CIFSouthern Section Division 1AA and All-Orange County first-team honors, as well as the Pacific Coast League MVP award.

Harris, a two-time Dream Team selection, performed at a high level wherever CdM needed her services. She’s a setter on her club team and she’s going to play setter in college, but the Sea Kings asked the 5-foot-9 Harris to hit this year, and she finished with an area-best 310 kills.

Harris could also run the offense, totaling 373 assists. Setter is also the position Harris played in the first two sets in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs at Edison, and it almost resulted in an early postseason exit for CdM.

With the Sea Kings dropping the first two sets, Astor turned to Harris. Astor had to make a change to his 6-2 rotation.

“He knew that I didn’t have that much control as a setter,” Harris said. “After we lost the first two [sets], he told me I was going to play outside, even before I asked because he kind [of] understood I needed to play outside.

“I needed to have the last touch on the ball. I wasn’t going to let us lose.”

Harris didn’t let CdM down.

She finished with 20 kills and 11 digs, rallying CdM to a 19-25, 19-25, 25-21, 25-23, 15-12 win. The fight the Sea Kings showed on the road is what Harris said she would never forget.

Harris’ season ended in the next round, in a four-set setback in the quarterfinals at No. 2-seeded Temecula Great Oak. She finished with 11 kills in the match, as well as 12 digs and a service ace, giving her 271 digs and 29 aces for the year.

“After the season was over, it was a bummer,” said Harris, who led CdM to a 23-5 overall record and 10-0 mark in the Pacific Coast League, the program’s seventh straight undefeated league title. “I’ve had some time now to look back on the season, since it ended a little more than a month ago. I’m going to miss my team, especially my coach and the four other seniors on the team.”

Below are the rest of the players on the Dream Team:

Natalia Bruening

MB | Corona del Mar

The senior middle blocker made the Sea Kings a great defensive team with her 6-foot-4 size and read-blocking ability. CdM Coach Steve Astor said Bruening, a three-year starter, was sharp in picking up tactical information, enabling the team to run complex blocking schemes with her on the court. Bruening, who finished with 197 kills and 62 blocks, made the All-Orange County and All-Pacific Coast League first teams. She is bound to UC Santa Barbara to play basketball. Bruening is a two-time Dream Team selection.

Remy Wilson

OH | Newport Harbor

The senior outside hitter made it difficult for the opposition to game plan against because of her versatility. Wilson passed well when teams served the ball her way, and when the Sailors set her up, she was able to hit the ball to a variety of areas on the court. She also used the block to her advantage while attacking. Wilson earned first-team All-Sunset League accolades after producing 256 kills and 25 blocks. Wilson is heading to UCLA to play sand volleyball.

Sydney Alacano

OH | Corona del Mar

The senior outside hitter provided a steady presence for the Sea Kings for the second straight year. CdM Coach Steve Astor called Alacano one of the most improved players in Orange County. He attributes Alacano’s success to her ability to attack the ball high above the net and her ability to adjust to any defense. Alacano could also take away an opponent’s attacker with her blocking. Alacano, a first-team All-Pacific Coast League member, finished with 154 kills and 22 blocks.

Kendall Kipp

MB | Corona del Mar

The freshman middle blocker contributed right away, playing without any fear. Kipp’s best performance came in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs at Edison, where her 24 kills allowed CdM to rally for a five-set win. The 6-foot-3 Kipp finished with 208 kills and 53 blocks, earning her second-team All-Pacific Coast League honors. Kipp’s older sister, Conley, made the Dream Team in 2008. The latest Kipp is one of the most talented freshmen to come through CdM.

Ashley Humphreys

OPP | Corona del Mar

The sophomore opposite affected matches in a variety ways. Humphreys split time hitting and setting, becoming the Sea Kings’ lone front row player to play in every set. CdM Coach Steve Astor credited Humphreys’ defense, saying many right side players aren’t as strong in the back row like her. Humphreys tallied 624 assists, 228 digs, 132 kills, 48 aces and 35 blocks, and made the All-Pacific Coast League second team. Her older sister, Kelsey, was the Dream Team Player of the Year in 2012.

Payton Carter

L | Corona del Mar

The senior libero stood out because of her range on the court, the best CdM Coach Steve Astor said he has seen in a long time. Carter’s ability to pass so much of the court and defend a whole half of it affected every CdM match. She amassed 411 digs, 44 assists and 43 aces. Carter, who is heading to Pepperdine, is a member of the All-Orange County third team and All-Pacific Coast League first team. Carter is a two-time Dream Team selection.

Ellie Hagadorn

S | Newport Harbor

The senior setter always seemed to spread the ball around at the right time for the Sailors, keeping the opposition off balance. Hagadorn, a first-team All-Sunset League pick, totaled 612 assists, 121 digs and six aces. She helped the Sailors to a fourth-place finish in the competitive Sunset League for the second straight season. Hagadorn and Newport Harbor competed in three tough tournaments, the Dave Mohs Memorial Championships, the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas and the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

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