Palmer's the pick


POSTED: Sunday, November 22, 2009

She's a high school kid through and through, yukking it up with friends before and after volleyball practices and matches.

On the court, though, there's only one Sarah Palmer. Highly teachable, fully supportive and, ultimately, the Star-Bulletin Girls Volleyball Player of the Year for a second consecutive season.

“;It kind of shows how much you've accomplished, but awards don't mean too much,”; Palmer said. “;It's about the memories.”;

The Hawaii Baptist senior gave her team plenty to remember. The 5-foot-11 leaper was one of the state's most resilient outside hitters, using power and finesse, patience and accuracy, to be efficient. She was also one of the top back-row defenders, as good a dig accumulator as any libero.

Her arsenal of skills is a big reason why the University of Texas, ranked No. 2 in the nation, offered her a scholarship (which she eventually accepted) as a junior. Palmer was even better as a senior.

“;She stepped up against us. The best players always play their best against the best,”; Kamehameha coach Chris Blake said. His team rose in the late season and captured the Division I state crown, while Palmer's HBA team took the D-II title for a third year in a row.

During the regular season, the Eagles won at Kamehameha for the first time in recent years, giving HBA fans another lasting memory.

“;She had key kills, three or four at the end. We knew where the ball was going to go. She's the heart and soul of that group,”; Blake said. “;She's such a well-rounded player who does everything she's asked.”;

Palmer had 14 kills and 17 digs in the win over Kamehameha, and HBA went on to finish the year 21-2. Palmer was dominant at the D-II state tourney. She had 18 kills (.429), seven digs and two aces against Kailua. In the semifinal, she pounded 10 kills (.300) and had nine digs and two aces against Hilo.

In the final against Word of Life, Palmer had 19 kills, 25 digs and two aces. Her workload in the final, 49 swings, was a far cry from the 95 attempts she had in the 2008 final against the Firebrands, but her all-around game was unmatched.

The voting wasn't a landslide, though. Kamehameha senior Taylor Akana turned in a spectacular performance in the D-I state final against Punahou to make the voting fairly close.

Akana, a 5-9 outside hitter, had 19 kills (.415) and 21 digs as Kamehameha rallied to upset previously unbeaten Punahou. Her versatility is no surprise—Akana and Palmer play for ASICS volleyball club—but she gave the Warriors a bonus with much-needed senior leadership.

Moanalua's Carsen Mata, another versatile senior, and Kahuku middle blocker Amanda Tonga followed in the voting.

Coach of the year honors went to Blake for a fifth consecutive year. The Warriors overcame the graduation of several All-State players and brought home another state-title trophy by peaking in the tourney with a host of juniors and sophomores.

“;Obviously, he gets talent, but the way he gets them to play for each other with no real ego, that's because of coaching,”; HBA coach Myles Shioji said. “;He's authoritative at times but also very caring. They like playing for him.”;

Punahou's Jim Iams, Kahuku's Uila Fotu Vendiola, Molokai's Matt Helm and Shioji received a significant number of votes behind Blake.

Player of the Year
Sarah Palmer, Hawaii Baptist, 5-10, SR.

Fab 15

Honorable Mention (in order of votes received)
Carina Thompson, Punahou; Gabriela Matautia, Moanalua; Quynne Eharis, University; Hi'i Evans-Bautista, KS-Hawaii; Brigitte Russo, Punahou; Tupusa Satele, Baldwin; Ginger Long, KS-Maui; Chelsey Buyuan, Waiakea; Kelly Leopoldo, Aiea; Katiana Ponce, Moanalua; Chelsey Keoho, Kamehameha; Kelci Renshaw, Kamehameha; Nicole Sniffen, Kamehameha; Ruth Tusi, University; Shyanne Cossey, Mililani; Fraustina Sagapolu, Farrington; Kanani Santos, Seabury Hall; Erika Cushnie, Waiakea; Kaena Kaina, Word of Life; Kainoa Ocasek, Word of Life; Shannon Waltz, La Pietra; Ho'onani Apo, Kahuku; Makamae Namahoe, Hilo; Jordan Schroer, La Pietra; Tayler Wang, Hawaii Prep; Alyssa Youart, 'Iolani