The News Tribune’s All-Area volleyball team One doesn’t have to pay too close attention to notice Bellarmine Prep star Courtney Schwan’s physical talent on the volleyball court.
Her long arms, vertical leap, deadly serve and devastating spike (she once broke the hand of a player who attempted to block her kill attempt during club season) make the University of Washington recruit a terror for opponents at outside hitter.
For a second consecutive season, the 6-foot-4 standout for the Lions is The News Tribune’s All-Area volleyball player of the year.
But it’s what people don’t see that has helped mold Schwan, now a junior, into a complete player and a consummate team leader.
Growing up in a family with parents who are veteran law enforcement officers at two different South Sound agencies has had a profound impact on the teenager.
Besides the obvious physical gifts – Schwan’s father, Kurt, is 6-foot-8 and played college basketball at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, where he met her mother, Paula, a volleyball player – Courtney has adopted a set of values and ethics that have elevated her game to an elite level.
“It has helped with how I deal with certain situations on the court,” said Schwan, who was named the 4A Narrows League most valuable player for a second time last week.
Treating others with respect, leading by example and doing what’s right in every situation – while also playing with a competitive fire and a court awareness – has helped Schwan grow into a leader and a key force for a top-seeded Lions team heading into this weekend’s Class 4A state volleyball tournament in Lacey.
“There is a difference between arrogance and confidence,” said Paula, who coached Courtney, her middle daughter, for her first five years in club volleyball. “She’s humble and very down to earth.”
“She doesn’t shut anybody out,” Kurt added.
Even at a young age when she was playing with older players, the leadership attributes started to come out in her personality. Courtney immediately felt the weight of being someone everyone else looked up to on the court and off it.
“I’ve embraced it,” she said.
She’s also embraced a lifestyle that’s perhaps unique to teenagers these days. The junior doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account. She doesn’t watch R-rated movies. She has never muttered a curse word.
As many children of law enforcement officers can echo, she has heard all the lectures on staying out late, safe driving and being aware of your surroundings.
“There are some points that I’ve heard over and over,” Schwan said with a grin.
Kurt and Paula said they’ve worked hard to give Courtney and her two sisters the tools they need to excel in sports and life.
“We use (on-the-job) situations as education tools,” Paula said. “It’s more about learning from the experiences versus using them as scare tactics.”
Those life skills are visible every time Courtney steps on the court. Schwan has developed a keen sense for what is on the court – an awareness and knowledge of her surroundings, if you will.
“She plays a lot of ball, so after a while you can read your opponent and find out if they’re moving back when you’re getting ready to swing – and then she pulls a roll shot in,” Bellarmine Prep coach Jody DeGroot said. “She sees things.”
That awareness has helped Schwan perfect a wide arsenal of hard and soft shots, many of which find open spots on the floor – as reflected in her hitting percentage, which peaked at .466 this season.
“I like to mix it up when I hitting. That way, they don’t know what to do when I’m up hitting,” Schwan said.
And while the good-girl persona takes center stage in her daily life, it doesn’t deter her from keeping that competitive fire burning and helping her teammates focus on the one thing they have yet to accomplish: winning a state title.
“We really came together at districts,” Schwan said of the team. “I just hope that’s what happens at state.”
2012 TNT’s ALL-AREA GIRLS VOLLEYBALL TEAM
2011 all-state performer has run this explosive offense for three seasons.
SetterKaty DeGrootBellarmine PrepSr.
Job was hers alone this season, and she responded (9.2 assists per game).
OH Maddie DavisPuyallupSr.
Smooth, efficient and team’s best all-around athlete (169 kills, 138 digs).
OH Jenna MullenEmerald Ridge So.
Wise-beyond-her-years standout (202 kills, 142 digs) for SPSL 4A champs.
OH Karlee SampsonTumwater Sr.
Few hit with the same authority as the EvCo player of the year (111 kills).
OH Chloe WatsonKent-Meridian Sr.
Hops of this super athlete unmatched (172 kills, 51 aces); headed to EWU.
MB Michaela BerendtOlympiaSr.
Nobody likes hitting against 6-foot-4, long-armed player headed to Villanova.
MB Brenna BruilAuburn Riverside Sr.
Three-year starter so steady for SPSL North champs (151 kills, 26 blocks).
MB Lisa DemickBonney Lake Sr.
Fiery competitor led co-SPSL 3A champs in kills (133) and digs (122).
MB Maddie KnechtGig Harbor Sr.
Another tall blocker (6-3) great at reading angles (381/2 blocks) for Tides.
Libero Taylor BuellCurtis Jr.
Full-effort specialist was third in SPSL with 246 digs; 95.7 serve percentage.
Player of the year: Courtney Schwan, Bellarmine Prep, junior
Coach of the year: Paul Souza, Washington
Setter: Astyn Bagby, Bonney Lake, sr.; Hunter Manke, Timberline, jr.; Makenzie March, Puyallup, sr.; Kaycee Shaffer, Curtis, so.
Outside hitter: Sojournah Channel, Wilson, jr.; Brooke Good, Auburn, sr.; Eva Linden, Fife, so.; Tasi Peredo, Washington, jr.; Brittany Rutherford, North Thurston, sr.
Middle blocker: Hannah Hanson, Tumwater, sr.; Katherine Joyce, Bellarmine Prep, sr.; Riley Podowicz, Timberline, jr.; Janell Sparks, Curtis, sr.
Libero: Leia Roy, Emerald Ridge, firstname.lastname@example.org