When you see Krista Barril warming up on a volleyball court for the first time, you immediately think, "She's either a setter or a defensive specialist."
Until, that is, she explodes from the court, skying up and over the net to smash down a vicious spike.
Then, the only thought that comes to mind is, "We have liftoff."
She's all of 5-foot-4, but boy does she have hops.
"I don't know, I guess it just comes naturally," Barril said sheepishly of her leaping ability. "I never realized I could jump high but my sophomore year, I got brought up to block for some other players and I ended up staying in that position on the right side to block for the team. I didn't think I jumped that high, but (coach Sandi Wagner) thought I did."
Wagner said she knew what type of athlete she had all along after coaching Hannah, Barril's older sister who now plays softball - which Krista also plays for JDHS - for the University of Oregon.
"Hannah had hops and was an athlete just like her, so it wasn't a surprise," she said. "I knew what I was getting. Krista's just an all-around good athlete, and that's why she plays all around for us."
Barril can do just about anything on the court, and play just about anywhere. She's currently first on the team in digs with 306, 22 more than Kalea Chapman's 284. Barril also is second to Chapman's 74 aces with 72 of her own, and is second to near-6-foot Sarah Tarver in kills with 280. No one is even close to Tarver's 383.
Barril is the only Bear to play in all 122 of their games this year, helping JDHS to 101 total wins, a 17-2 match record, the Region V championship and a berth in the opening round of the 2009 ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Volleyball State Championships against Colony at 2 p.m. Thursday at West Anchorage High School.
"She's made huge leaps this year after playing on varsity for three years now," Wagner said. "We had her as a backup blocker for a setter who couldn't block very well (as a sophomore), and it was kind of ironic that she's so short but could come up and be a blocker on the right side - that's usually where you put your big girls.
"She plays all of the way around, along with Daffodil (Alinson)," she continued. "She did a nice job as a sophomore, and last year we moved her to outside hitter. She struggled with her confidence and consequently would get really down on herself, which would take her out of her game."
Barril agreed she was overly tough on herself last year after making a mistake, but then she realized that she was an upperclassman and needed to set an example for her youngerteammates.
"If I did one thing wrong, I would feel like I wasn't doing anything right," she admitted. "If I tried to fix it, I couldn't. I needed to see results right away. They would send me quotes to try and help me throughout the year, and this year, I've really improved on it.
"Last year toward the end of the season, I realized that I'd be a leader this year and I'd have to step it up and think about the team more."
Fellow senior and three-year varsity teammate Nia Maake, a setter, said Barril has come a long way since their freshmen days.
"We started out as setters as freshmen. She's always had a passion to hit outside, but the coaches thought setting was good for her," she said. "Finally, last year toward the end of the season, she was just very determined that she wanted to hit outside. We started setting a 5-1 (offense), and she has been our outside hitter ever since. She's an amazing hitter, and she's got mega hops.
"For such a small girl, she's just an incredible hitter."
Barril said she always thought she could help the team most as a hitter because that way, she could play defense as well.
"Being a setter, you don't really get to play defense, and that's one of my (strengths)," she said. "Last year when (Wagner) decided to change me into a hitter, that's when I went into the hitting and defensive modes."
And now, you can't get her off the floor, which is just the way she likes it.
"I hate coming off the court," she said with a big smile. "I'm the type of person that wants to stay on the court the whole time. I try to do the best I can at everything because I want to stay out there.
"I just love the game, and I love playing."
Maake said it's a blessing to be surrounded by all the weapons the Bears have, including Barril, Tarver, Alinson and Taylor Larson on the front line.
"Sometimes, I get so unfocused because after I set, I just want to see them hit the ball and just smack it down," she said. "I get so caught up with standing back and watching, and sometimes we lose the point because I don't cover. It's just fun to set for them, and when I make a good set and they make a good hit."
Maake and Barril said they're more focused now than they've ever been, whether they are favored to win state or not.
"We're excited because the team this year has really come a long way; we really have," Barril said. "I have so much faith in our team that I think we can achieve anything we put our hearts to. In regions, we got beat and were really down, but we had our talk and it brought us a lot closer together. Then we came back the next day and took it to Ketchikan."
Next up, Colony. And we will have liftoff.
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