SOMERDALE — Sterling senior outside hitter Cari Applegate loves everything about volleyball.
In fact, she loves the sport so much, she plays it year-round. Her efforts to hone her skills have shown in a big way each season on the Sterling volleyball team. She’s added aspects to her game and has gotten better and better.
“I play volleyball all year-round,” she said with a big smile. “It’s my only sport. I love it. I’ve been playing since my freshman year, so just four years now.”
The standout fourth-year player, who was a first-team All-Courier-Post player for Sterling last season, has helped her team to a terrific 19-1 start. The Silver Knights, who won the Olympic Conference Freedom Division last season and advanced to the Group 2 state finals, appear to be poised to make a run once again.
Players such as Applegate, one of six seniors, are a large reason for that. Applegate has 85 kills, a team-high 69 aces and 68 digs.
“Cari brings a court presence, she brings leadership on and off the floor,” Sterling coach Matt Macpherson said. “She’s a force up front. She’s a great passer in the back row.”
Anyssa Sanchez, a middle hitter and senior starter for Sterling, loves having Applegate as a teammate. She says she’s a do-it-all kind of player, who will do whatever needs to be done on the court — offensively and defensively.
“Applegate brings a lot to the team,” said Sanchez, a standout basketball player for Sterling as well. “She’s one of our strongest hitters outside. Defensively, offensively, she can do it all. She’s always ready, ready to cover. She’s a great asset to the team.”
When you watch Applegate play, you see her do everything well, from serving, to helping on defense, to smashing a kill. Applegate, who would like to play in college, missed time last season due to a broken ankle, but returned in time to help her team make a serious run in the playoffs.
She finished with 45 aces, 46 kills and 29 digs for the season, despite missing about three weeks.
Her older sister, Megan, was a standout softball player at Sterling.
“I come from a very athletic family,” Cari said. “My dad’s (Kirk) very athletic. He’s a baseball player and plays in a men’s softball league now, too.”
Athleticism is a key component to Sterling’s success with versatile players such as Applegate, Sanchez, Emily Kriebel, Leilani Naone-Carter, Lori Gorczynski, as well as libero Melanie Kaiser.
Kaiser says having the half-dozen seniors on the squad makes a difference. They’re able to be successful despite losing top players such as Katie Johnson and Sydney Allen to graduation from last year’s 25-4 squad.
Sterling suffered its first defeat of the season in Monday’s 2-0 loss to Cherokee.
“I think (the start) really has come with all the senior leadership,” Kaiser said.
Plus, they all just have fun. You see plenty of laughs and smiles during their games. Nobody seems to be having more fun than Applegate, who enjoys the sport so much for so many reasons.
“I love the intensity of the game,” she said. “You’re always moving and it’s with the team. It’s a teamwork sport. I love that.”