High School Sports

Auburn Riverside’s Calley Heilborn named The News Tribune's All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year

Highlights: Calley Heilborn leads Auburn Riverside to 3-2 4A district-title win over Bellarmine Prep

The match ended with second-ranked Auburn Riverside edging No. 4 Bellarmine Prep 17-25, 25-23, 25-21, 19-25, 15-13 on Saturday for the bidistrict title and a top seed to next weekend’s state tournament.
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The match ended with second-ranked Auburn Riverside edging No. 4 Bellarmine Prep 17-25, 25-23, 25-21, 19-25, 15-13 on Saturday for the bidistrict title and a top seed to next weekend’s state tournament.

The photo hangs in Chris Leverenz’s office. Calley Heilborn is sprawled on the gymnasium court on her back — her 6-foot-1 frame contorted into a turtle-like pose.

Heilborn brought energy and enthusiasm with her cheering on the bench — or on the floor. Sometimes too much.

“We had to yell at her and say, ‘You’ve got to get up. Somebody is going to get hurt,’ ” Leverenz said. “One time she almost fell running down the court to cheer for the team.”

But that’s the role Auburn Riverside High School’s volleyball team needed Heilborn to fill her freshman year, when it won a Class 3A state title.

Now the Ravens need her to be the team leader, finish kills, dig and block spikes.

Heilborn has Auburn Riverside in the state tournament for the third consecutive year and has earned The News Tribune’s 2016 All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.

TNT All-Area Volleyball

She led the Ravens to the 4A North Puget Sound League’s Olympic division title, a 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict title and what she hopes after this weekend will be a Class 4A state title.

Her all-around style of play has helped her compile 432 kills, 355 digs and 25 blocks this year.

“She’s a phenomenal player,” Bellarmine Prep coach Caroline Meines said following a 3-2 loss to Auburn Riverside in the bidistrict title match. “We have some decent-sized blockers and we have some good diggers. But her range — she can hit over blocks and around blocks.

“She does a lot for them and she shoulders that very well.”

This is the kind of thing Leverenz has come to expect from the Heilborns.

She’s a phenomenal player. We have some decent-sized blockers and we have some good diggers. But her range — she can hit over blocks and around blocks.

Bellarmine Prep coach Caroline Meines, following a 3-2 loss to Auburn Riverside in the bidistrict title match.

The first Heilborn she coached was Carson, who went on to earn Gatorade’s Washington state volleyball player of the year honors in 2014 and is now at the University of New Mexico.

In total, there’s the parents, Karl and Caroline, then siblings Connor, Carson, Calley and Camden.

“We’ve tried to get my dad to change his first name so it starts with a ‘C’,” Calley said.

Carson was a setter. Calley is an outside hitter and younger sister Camden, a freshman, is also a setter.

Their volleyball acumen developed thanks to a net in front of their home — one side attached to their garage, and the other end to a basketball hoop.

Calley says her dad is the athletic one, having played volleyball recreationally in college. Her mom is a drama teacher and once sang opera.

“It’s funny because my mom knows so much about the game just by watching it, but when she tries to do things that we do as volleyball players — it’s pretty funny to watch,” Calley said.

“My dad, though — he’s pretty good. Maybe someday I can take him when he gets older and slower.”

Leverenz calls them an “All-American family.”

“The Heilborns do weird stuff,” Leverenz laughed. “They still eat dinners together and do homework together and do family things in the summer.”

Anna Maracich, a junior outside hitter, took her first steps into the Heilborn home about two years ago. The Maracich and Heilborn parents had arranged for her and Calley to have a sleepover.

Maracich soon discovered the wizard lair. The Heilborn garage had been converted into one, of sorts, to appease Calley and Camden and their love of “Harry Potter.”

They had sticks for wands, a hat and a closet separating two sides of the garage with the back removed — a portal between worlds.

“She was like, ‘You want to play wizards!?’ ” Maracich said, spitting and speaking with a lisp to re-create Calley’s mouth full of braces.

“She had all these retainers. And when you saw her in the morning it was not the best thing ever. She would wake up at like 2 p.m. and come out and be like, ‘Mom — where’s my egg sandwich!?’ ” Maracich said with the lisp.

This was Calley in her comfort zone.

Not the one at school, where Calley said she is shy and quiet.

“I definitely feel like I’m kind of two different people,” Calley said. “There’s me at school and then on the volleyball court — where I just get crazy and really out there. It’s kind of different.”

Like when she serves an ace — Calley pumps her fist like she’s Tiger Woods, despite her teammates heckling her about it.

Or when her team scores — sometimes Calley’s eyes will get wide, her mouth opens and her tongue wags or she kicks her legs into the air.

“I think I’m just more comfortable,” Calley said. “I think I’m way more comfortable on the court than in school.”

Clarice Buchanan said Calley is one of the funniest people she knows.

Calley does it all — blocks, sets, hits. She is so special because she stands out on a great team. She stands above everyone on a great team and she leads us and we’re district champions. Calley will outplay everybody in any given match.

Auburn Riverside coach Chris Leverenz

And the most intense.

“She lost a game of rock-paper-scissors in a competition at our team camp, like right off the bat. So I was telling her she’s such a loser at rock-paper-scissors,” Buchanan said. “But then she got chosen again to play and I was like, ‘Why did you choose Calley!? She’s just going to lose.’

“Then she wins and immediately turns around and runs at me and like mauls me and even punches me in the face saying, ‘You always doubt me! Never doubt me!’ 

Calley reminds Leverenz much of herself — nice, caring and funny off of the court, but intense and focused on it.

“Calley and I are very connected,” Leverenz said. “I think we just have a similar soul.”

But is Calley a better volleyball player than even Carson was?

“I wouldn’t say one is better,” Leverenz said. “Calley is the more all-around player. Carson was an amazing setter, great blocker, very physical. Calley does it all — blocks, sets, hits.

“She is so special because she stands out on a great team. She stands above everyone on a great team and she leads us and we’re district champions. Calley will outplay everybody in any given match.”

She just inspires everybody. Everyone wants to be like her. I know me, personally, I want to be as good as her.

Anna Maracich, Auburn Riverside junior outside hitter

She took a personality quiz at one of Auburn Riverside’s offseason camps at Western Washington University. Her freshman year she was scored as an influential personality — enthusiastic and a team-builder.

This past offseason she graded as a dominant personality.

“And now Camden has taken on that cheering role and Calley has brought more of that intensity,” Maricich said. “And that’s good because she is like our strongest player. We need her to put the ball away.

“She just inspires everybody. Everyone wants to be like her. I know me, personally, I want to be as good as her.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677

@TJCotterill

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