Ortiz wins Sun/Rotary volleyball honor
Bethany Olea, Cibola
Anahi Torres, Gila Ridge
Kalaina Barnett, YC
Chelsey Mendenhall, YC
Nikki Kelland, Gila Ridge
Jacky Fuentes, Kofa
Before the season, Kofa outside hitter Jasmine Ortiz was talking with Kings coach Brittany Garcia.
A year after being simply a role player for Kofa during her sophomore season, Ortiz was ready to make the jump. She wanted to become the best player in the area.
“When we first started open gyms, she came up to me and told me, ‘Coach, I really want to be player of the year,'” Garcia said.
In the middle of November, Ortiz was sitting in a class when she got a text from Garcia. The coach let the junior outside hitter know that she was the 2012 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Volleyball Player of the Year.
“I just came in knowing I wanted it. I told coach Brittany that I really needed her help,” Ortiz said.
“I love when my girls come up to me with their goals,” Garcia said, “and I was definitely happy when she told me her goal was to be player of the year.”
Ortiz finished with 305 kills (4.07 per set), 249 digs (3.45) and 45 aces and helped lead the Kings to the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I State Playoffs. It was an all-around game that seemed vastly improved from a year ago.
“I think she wanted to go all the way around,” Garcia said. “She knew that her hitting wasn't the best and she knew she had to step up. Especially since our best outside hitters left, she knew she had to become our best outside hitter.”
Last year's star outside hitter Miranda Brookhart won the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Volleyball Player of the Year in 2011 — and with Kacey Nady winning the award in 2010, Garcia has had the player of the year each of the three years she's coached at Kofa. But Ortiz is the only one to be a junior when she won the award — the result of a season built on a growing confidence, something she lacked as a sophomore.
“That's normal for a sophomore on varsity,” Garcia said of Ortiz's hesitancy last year. “But then I told her that she needed to be a leader on the team now and your confidence level needed to come up.”
That confidence was on display on the opening match of the year. Fighting illness from the day before, Ortiz had 14 kills in a five-set win against Lake Havasu — the first of 13 matches with double-digit kills, including 21 in a three-set loss to the Knights later in the season. She racked up her kills despite being 5-foot-6 and playing a position known for height.
“It's just working around the blocks. You can be up against 6-footer blockers, you got to be smart,” Ortiz said. “It's not more power, it's more being smart. It's about looking where the players are and where the blockers are. And tipping. That came in handy for a 5-6 girl.”
Now the 5-foot-6 outside hitter has one more year at Kofa. She said she plans to get higher when she goes up to hit and be quicker on defense. Considering she set her mind before the 2012 season to become the best player in the area, chances are she'll have no trouble adding to her skills.
“Obviously with her dedication and her love for volleyball itself, she's just going to get so much better,” Garcia said. “When she comes to volleyball practice, she wants to go to volleyball practice. That love of the game is going to help her improve.”