Horizon senior nets top honor in girl's volleyball

Horizon senior nets top honor in girl's volleyball

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Horizon senior nets top honor in girl's volleyball

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When end-of-the-year awards are handed out, it’s usually hard to go wrong with the best player on the best team.

That was especially true with Horizon senior Nikki Hess, who was named by azcentral sports as the All-Northeast Valley Player of the Year for volleyball.

The 6-foot Hess led Horizon to its third state championship in four years with a four-game victory over Xavier Prep Nov. 6. She has played in the state title match every year of her high-school career.

In the win against Xavier, Hess tallied 19 kills. Horizon finished with a 43-3 record, losing only one match to an Arizona team. That team was Xavier, a loss that came without Hess’ services and one Horizon would avenge at the state tournament.

How Horizon fared with and without Hess is a good barometer of her value to her team.

“All season long Nikki has been our leader,” coach Valorie McKenzie said. “She was captain this year and captain last year. Again, her skills are amazing and she’s really helped lead us.”

Hess finished the year with 378 kills and 60 aces, but was also effective defensively with 267 digs. She was an All-Arizona selection by azcentral sports at year’s end.

Her kill numbers catch the eye, but McKenzie stressed that her star hitter is also well-rounded.

“Nikki does it all, she’s top in kills for us, she digs for us, she serves, aces,” McKenzie said. “She’s just a good all-around athlete.”

McKenzie said Hess’ communication on the court is one of her strengths. Hess always had boundless enthusiasm and cheered on her teammates.

That chemistry was important in the state title win over Xavier.

“We just tried to stay together and not try to go our separate ways; just play as a team,” Hess said after the win.

After four years, though, Hess and Horizon volleyball will be heading separate ways after all. The senior is being recruited by several schools, and has an offer from Montana. Hess also has a visit scheduled with Santa Clara this weekend, and will visit with Hawaii’s sand volleyball squad as well.

That’s a lot to consider, but at this point her mind is filled more with fond memories than pressing decisions.

“She still hasn’t decided officially where she wants to go,” McKenzie said.

When she decides, Horizon will be sad to watch her walk away.

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