Kami Marion has seemingly always possessed a unique volleyball talent.

A four-year varsity player at Stockdale High, Marion’s quickness and athleticism has always enabled her to compete with much taller opponents as an undersized middle blocker.

But the 5-foot-8 senior added something new this season: leadership.

Marion’s newest skill enabled her to take her game — and her team — to another level. And for that reason, she was selected as the 2019 BVarsity All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.

“I just felt like when I became a senior this year that I had to step up as a leader and somewhat lead the team because I wanted the younger players to look up to me and know what it is to be a good, competitive volleyball player,” Marion said. “And I wanted (Coach Maria) Collatz to see that.

“When we would be on a bad run, I wanted to be the person that would always celebrate no matter how far down we were or even when we’re at practice, I wanted to be that person that everyone looked up to. I wanted to be someone they trusted to come ask me questions, about volleyball or even outside of volleyball.”

Typically not a vocal leader, Marion let her play do most of the talking this season as the Mustangs’ go-to player on offense. She led the team in blocks and was second in kills, connecting on 41 percent of her shots this year. Marion was named co-Southwest Yosemite League player of the year with Liberty libero Jaleesa Caroccio.

“She was absolutely our go-to player,” said Collatz, who was quick to point out that Marion and senior teammate Brooklyn Jackson each shared the role as team leaders. “And it wasn’t a secret. Everybody in town knew Kami was going to get the ball, yet she handled that pressure and she still performed with so few errors. I’ve been coaching a long time and that was one of things that was super impressive. Sure she had bad moments, but she didn’t make a ton of errors, and people all knew it was going to her. And it wasn’t a secret on our team, either.”

Marion’s success was also sparked by her competitive nature.

“I guess you could kind of say that I was tired of losing the past three years so I wanted to step up and make a change, and just make sure that the girls on the team had more fun,” said Marion of Stockdale, which tied with Liberty for the Southwest Yosemite League championship after going a combined 3-17 the two previous years. “Winning is important, but you don’t want to win and be miserable.

“I’m passionate about playing the game of volleyball and passionate about winning. I do not like losing. I’m like the competitive type to where if I want to win. I feel like on the court that the girls shared that with me, and like followed me. And as a team, we all came together and did the same thing.”

That togetherness helped the Mustangs advance to the Central Section Division II final before losing a five-set marathon to Bakersfield Christian. Marion had 19 kills, nine blocks and four aces to help Stockdale rally from a two-set deficit.

“I just smile when I think of Kami,” Collatz said “The reason I do is her shear growth. She grew as a person, she grew as a player, she grew as a leader. I saw it in her as a freshman, but it never fully came out 100 percent until this year. To see her just click that on switch, it just makes my heart happy.”

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