Alta hoping to make solid run at state volleyballNov 02, 2017 04:08PM ● By Ron Bevan
Alta senior Megumi Wilkinson serves the ball during a recent volleyball practice. Wilkinson plays the defensive libero position for the Hawks. (Ron Bevan/City Journals)
It isn’t always easy to replace one of the best players to come through a high school program. Especially if that player was good enough for All-American recognition.
But sometimes having such a player helps reap future growth for a team.
So it is with Alta’s girls volleyball team this season. After saying goodbye to libero Mimi Dahlin last season, the Hawks knew she would be hard to replace. But in stepped senior captain Megumi Wilkinson, who has been playing at a feverish pace this season.
“Wilkinson got to play against one of the best players in the nation for two straight years,” Alta coach Mike Gansauge said. “It has made her into a quality player herself.”
Wilkinson had to fill the shoes of Dahlin at the defensive libero position, a player that stays on the back line of the volleyball formation. Liberos are allowed to sub out for one rotation instead of going to the front line, and come in quicker than other players who substitute out. A libero’s responsibility is to stop the opponent’s attack and get the ball into the hands of the front line setter.
Dahlin played the position four straight years for Alta and established herself as one of the top players in the nation. With a chance to choose from several top schools, she chose to continue at the collegiate level for Chicago’s Loyola University.
“Wilkinson has been waiting three years to get a shot at our starting libero position,” Gansauge said. “She has been patient, knowing how good Dahlin was. But she learned along the way and she always wants to do her best.”
Wilkinson is part of a large group of seniors on this year’s Alta volleyball squad. Seven seniors suit up for the varsity team, with three juniors and three sophomores. Along with Wilkinson, one of two captains on the team, the other seniors are Madalyn Armstrong, Lilah Bowles, Emmalee Jackson, Haley Naea, Sariah Naea and Hannah White.
“We have a lot of experience having this many seniors this year,” Gansauge said. “That is helping us keep in the hunt for region and state. It is a good mix of older and younger players that are helping us play well.”
At press deadline, the Hawks were sitting in sole position of second place in region play behind undefeated Corner Canyon.
But it isn’t just on the shoulders of the seniors to take the team to state. Sophomore Sunny Brown has impressed the other players enough to be named as the second captain of the team along with Wilkinson.
“Brown plays middle for us and is very consistent in her play,” Gansauge said. “She plays a lot stronger than her age.”
Also adding to the starting lineup is junior Sadie Babka. Playing only on the sophomore team last season, Babka has played well enough to bypass the junior varsity and claim a varsity position this season.
“She picked up her game in just one year,” Gansauge said.