Spanish Springs senior Hannah Meadows garnered the top honor as she was named High Desert League player of the year after a stellar senior season.
"Statistically, when you add up all the things she did, she may have had the best season of any player we've ever had," Spanish Springs coach Frank Sandomenico said. "There was so much pressure on her as setter but also an outside hitter. She played both at the same time. She just did everything for us. She was our go-to player in every rotation. Within games even, we'd have to switch her back and forth if we needed. She just had an amazing year."
Meadows was indeed a jack-of-trades in the Cougars' hybrid offense. She often set while her rotation was in the back row and played outside hitter when she rotated up front. She led Spanish Springs, which won the High Desert League and posted a 24-8 record, in assists and aces while being second in kills and fourth in digs.
"That's really rare," Sandomenico said. "We adjusted to a lot of things to get our best players on the floor in the best spots and it worked well. Hannah's a good athlete who has played a lot of volleyball and she's a smart player. She's just the total package."
Meadows admitted she knew about the award going into the season, but said it wasn't something she was focused on winning.
"It was something I wanted to work toward to try and win but not something I felt I needed to do everything I could to win. I was just more focused on the our team winning," Meadows said. "So when I learned that I had won, it was pretty awesome.
"I was really surprised. I didn't expect it. There are so many good players in our league ... It was a fun season. It was fun that I could help the team in so many ways."
Spanish Springs also put a pair of talented seniors on the HDL's first-team. Middle blocker Gabby Szachara, who signed a letter of intent last week to play volleyball at Nevada during her college career, earned first-team honors as did her Cougars teammate libero Brandi Brucato.
Szachara led Spanish Springs in blocks, kills and hitting percentage. The 6-foot 1-inch athlete finished her tenure in a Cougars uniform as the school's career leader in blocks and hitting percentage.
"Gabby is a difference maker," Sandomenico said. "When people played Spanish Springs, she was the No. 1 focus. People had to figure out what they were going to do about Gabby and she came through for us all season.
"When you have a player like that, it opens up stuff for other teammates. Outside of Gabby, we were not a real tall team, so I think some of our shorter hitters benefitted from Gabby being around because other teams had to focus so much on here. Gabby also made our defense better because you knew she would get up a block every time."
Brucato was the anchor to the SSHS defense. She led the Cougars in digs this fall and became the school's career leader in that category. She was also second on the team in aces.
"She was our best passer," Sandomenico said. "She was in charge pretty much of our defense and serve receive. She took that over ... She's a great asset. She was able to get us running our middles. To do that, you need a good passer. She just had a great season. She did a great job."
Spanish Springs wasn't the only Sparks-area school that saw players recognized. Reed put senior outside hitter Moriah Maluotoga on the HDL's first-team list. Despite being just 5-foot 5-inches tall, the athletic Maluotoga played outside hitter for the Raiders and never came off the floor, finishing among the team's leaders in kills and digs.
"Moriah's a player that our team always relied on to get a key pass or kill," Raiders coach Kristen Flagtvedt said. "She was very consistent for us. She could play multiple positions and play them all well. Skill-wise she was there for us, and from a leadership role, she was there for us."
A trio of Rail City athletes earned second-team recognition. Senior outside hitter Tayler Lodge captured that distinction for Spanish Springs while senior middle blocker Maddy Funk and junior outside hitter Emilie Braun did so for Reed.
"Maddy went through her year of struggles," Flagtvedt said. "She had mono to start the year off, but she worked through it. She showed she could be dominant hitting and blocking. And then Emilie was very consistent for us on the outside. She did a great job progressing from last year where she was playing half way around to this year playing all the way around. She took ownership of her position and worked to get better and do different things. She produced well for us."
The honorable mention list was dotted with local athletes as well. Senior Madison McCusker and Sadye Roulund of Spanish Springs along with Reed senior Kelsey Donohoe grabbed that honor.
"Sadye gave us great serving and passing while Madison gave us another good option in the middle," Sandomenico said. "I was happy to be able to get those kids on there. It's a reflection of a good season. When you win the league, you should be well represented. We did get a good turnout so you have to be happy with that."
In the DI-A ranks, Sparks struggled through a tough season, but it was not left off the league's award list.
Railroaders coach Tarina Elliott was named the conference's coach of the year for the second time during her tenure (2009).
"We don't have any club players here at Sparks," Elliott said. "Every year we're starting from the bottom and building back up. We lost a lot of seniors from last year so it was definitely a rebuilding year. The other coaches in the league saw that. They saw we were still competing. It felt good the other coaches saw that."
The lone Sparks player to earn a spot on the all-league list for Sparks was its middle blocker, junior Nina Cuadra (Honorable Mention).
"She led our team in kills and blocks, and she served at 85 percent. She was one of our captains and a team leader," Elliott said.