It didn't take Callan Janowiec long to make an impression on Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball co-coach Sandi Wagner.
Janowiec was a freshman setter when she earned some playing time with the Crimson Bears varsity squad. She was playing for the Crimson Bears during a tournament at East Anchorage High School, when one of her teammates sent a bad pass her way.
"There was a shanked ball and she ran head-on into the wall trying to chase it down," Wagner said. "Then she came up smiling and she wanted to keep on playing. We didn't let her, but we knew we had a special player as a freshman."
This season, as a senior, Janowiec led the Crimson Bears to an undefeated record and their first state championship. The state's volleyball coaches honored her efforts by naming Janowiec Alaska's Gatorade Player of the Year, and Janowiec was presented the award on Friday afternoon during a school pep assembly as part of Juneau's homecoming weekend.
"I had no idea; it was a total surprise," Janowiec said after the assembly. "To top off a perfect season and a state championship - it's awesome."
Janowiec is Juneau's first volleyball player to win a state Gatorade Player of the Year Award. Juneau has had athletes win the Gatorade award in other sports, including Robert Lossett and Justin Dorn in boys soccer the past two years, Meagan Gleason in girls basketball and Carlos Boozer twice in boys basketball.
While Gatorade Player of the Year honors go to an individual, Janowiec said much of the credit goes to her teammates.
"I never could have done it without my team ... and coaches," she said.
Wagner said the award in meaningful to the entire team.
"You've got to remember we had some great kids getting the ball from (Janowiec)," Wagner said. "If they don't complete the play, her sets don't mean as much. The award goes to Callan, but it recognizes the entire team, especially those four who have been there the last three years."
Janowiec was one of four returning starters from Juneau's team that finished third in the Class 4A state tournament last season, and those four players - Janowiec, senior middle blocker Amy Neussl, senior outside hitter Kelly Baxter and junior outside hitter Julie Heard - dominated the team's stats this year.
Where Janowiec really dominated play, though, didn't show up in the stats. Juneau assistant coach Pat Gorman keeps the team's statistics, but setter assists is one stat he doesn't keep. Her job was to set up her teammates so they could get the kill, and the glory. One of Janowiec's specialties was turning a bad pass into a good set so Juneau's offense could stay on the attack.
"The setter's the quarterback of the team," Wagner said. "Callan did a very good job taking a bad pass and making a good set. I think it frustrated the other teams because they'd see our passing break down, but then she'd still get a good set up. She's definitely a leader and she knew who to set."
One place where Janowiec dominated the Juneau stat sheet was in serving, and Gorman said she's the first person to lead the team in this category three straight years.
"She served tough - those weren't easy serves," Gorman said, adding that Janowiec's serve percentage was "extraordinary."
Janowiec made 532 serves this season, and 510 of them went in for a 96-percent serving percentage. She also served 74 aces, while making 208 digs on defense and six solo blocks. Janowiec and Baxter were the only Crimson Bears to play in every one of Juneau's 106 games this season, as Juneau went 20-0 in full matches and 100-6 in all games including round-robin pool-play in tournaments.
As spring approaches, Janowiec already is getting ready for the girls soccer season and she's been a starting striker since her sophomore year. But in college, Janowiec said she plans to play volleyball.
"I've had nothing definite yet, just feelers," Janowiec said two weeks ago when asked about her college plans. "But I'm going volleyball all the way, no soccer."
Janowiec said she was scheduled to take a trip to Anchorage to try out for the University of Alaska Anchorage team, but she's not sure if she wants to stay in Alaska for college.
"I want to go back east, to Vermont or New Hampshire," Janowiec said. "I really want to go to Vermont, but there's no women's volleyball at Vermont. I like that northern east coast, I think I'd like it there."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com. Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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