Player of the Year: Ashley Vander Tuig
School: Central Valley Christian
Position: Middle blocker
She's qualified because: Blossomed into dominant all-around player while helping Cavaliers win their third straight Central Section Division IV championship with 359 kills, a sky-high .429 hitting percentage, 327 digs, 112 blocks and 32 aces. The Central Sequoia League MVP who is Azusa Pacific-bound had 736 kills, 459 digs and 261 blocks in three-year career.
Ashley Vander Tuig arrived on the Central Valley Christian High volleyball team three years ago as a 6-foot-2 sophomore with simple expectations: stand in the middle, get her long arms in the air and alter opposing shots.
And she did her job well with a team-leading 65 total blocks for a Cavaliers' squad that went 31-4, won the Central Section Division IV championship and reached the second round of the CIF Southern California Regionals in 2009.
But as Vander Tuig's career progressed, she longed to play a bigger all-around role, especially after getting a limited taste of back row action as a junior.
"I've always been in the middle because I'm tall, but I love being in the back row," Vander Tuig said. "So in the off-season, I worked hard so I could have that opportunity. It's a whole different view of the game. I almost like it better That's what starts every play. You have to have good back-row play to do anything else."
Vander Tuig's efforts paid off.
The Azusa Pacific-bound senior enjoyed success at the net (359 kills at a .429 hitting percentage, 112 blocks), in the back row (327 digs) and from the service line (32 aces) to help power CVC to a third straight Division IV title and second-round appearance in the SoCal Regionals.
Vander Tuig is the second player from her school to be named The Bee's Player of the Year, joining her coach Meghan (Scheenstra) Warkentin. Cavaliers' teammate Danielle Nederend, Clovis West's Lauren Meador, Bullard's Pookie Gonzalez and Clovis East's Madeline Kuber were also strongly considered for the honor.
"She's one of the kids on my team who's going to put the ball away the easiest, so you hate to see her in the back row," said Warkentin, the Cavaliers' second-year coach. "But she's one of my best in the back row when she gets there, and that's rare to see from a middle blocker. She was out-of-this-world as natural as they get. My coaches and I would joke that she could play libero in college. She could block in college, hit in college. She is outstanding in every aspect of the game, and that's pretty special."
Because it hadn't been asked of her much previously, Vander Tuig didn't even know if she could handle more responsibility in the back row until midway through club season following her junior year.
That's when she started staying in matches throughout the rotation in order to improve her all-around game -- important if she was going to impress college coaches watching the club tournament scene.
"Once I started playing it, I realized, 'Yes, I can play back there and I can do better at it,' " said Vander Tuig, the Central Sequoia League's MVP. "Being an all-around player makes it so much better for colleges. That was a big motivation."
One of Vander Tuig's best performances of her senior season came in one of the Cavaliers' biggest wins -- a 20-25, 25-23, 25-23, 26-24 upset of then-Bee top-ranked and eventual section Division I champion Clovis West. Vander Tuig delivered a 22-kill, .538-hitting percentage, 14-dig, 14-of-14-serving performance as CVC beat the Golden Eagles for the first time in three meetings.
"She had that experienced senior sort of mentality," Warkentin said. "I could depend on her. She wanted the ball and took charge without having to say anything. You could see that against Clovis West. She decided to take over, and she has the athletic ability to turn a match around."