School: Central Valley Christian Grade: Senior
Qualifications: Third-year player provided the foundation for the CIF State Division III runner-up Cavaliers from the back row, coming up with a team-leading 643 digs while being named to the Maxpreps.com first-team All-State D-III and All-America Medium Schools teams. Van Grouw also posted a 96.2% serving percentage to lead CVC to a school-record 37-5 season, including the program's first section title since being promoted from D-IV and its second Southern California Regional championship. "She is out-of-this-world good," Cavaliers coach Meghan Warkentin said. "We've always had good hitters at CVC, but what was different this year was we had Tess." Central Sequoia League coaches voted Van Grouw the Defensive Player of the Year after leading CVC to a 12-0 league record.
Rising to the challenge: Van Grouw had some of her best performances in the biggest matches. She had 30 digs and was named tournament MVP as CVC beat the host Cougars in the Clovis Volleyball Challenge final to launch the season. Her 34-dig performance keyed a 25-17, 30-32, 25-14, 25-16 victory over Redwood in the section D-III final and she came up with 20 digs in a 25-20, 25-16, 25-10 loss to Valley Christian-San Jose for the state title. "Tess kept us in matches we had no business being in," Warkentin said. "Even when our blockers were fooled or the offense wasn't putting the ball away, Tess would keep digging and keep digging and keep us in rallies and games."
Digging the defense: At a school that annually churns out 6-foot hitters, it was the 5-8 libero who impressed both her own and opposing coaches with a consistent ability to keep the ball off the floor, no matter where it came from or how fast it was traveling. "No one at CVC has ever appreciated the libero role as much as they do now," Warkentin said. "Now everyone knows what a big difference a great libero makes. It's taken someone as good as Tess to make that happen. She made me a believer, too. I knew defense was a big deal, but she showed me really what a big deal it is."
Next step: Van Grouw, whose sister Kasey played at Fresno State, has signed with reigning NAIA national champion Biola. Van Grouw follows in the footsteps of Warkentin, who starred for CVC as the Bee's 2003 Player of the Year before moving on to Pepperdine and eventually Biola, the private Christian college in La Mirada. "She could have gone a lot of places, but Biola ended up a good fit for her," Warkentin said. "I think Tess has a good shot at making a mark her first year there."
Coach says:"She has set an awesome direction for CVC volleyball in more ways than one. Her willingness to work hard, her humbleness, she's just an awesome kid to have and set a tone for your program." — Warkentin