By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
CRESCENT CITY As the only senior on the Del Norte High varsity volleyball team, Deja Hartwick has stepped up to the net in a big way this year.
Since Hartwick, the team's starting setter, joined the varsity volleyball team as a sophomore, she has demonstrated maturity and leadership qualities well beyond her years and has been a major factor in the squad's continued success this year.
Head coach Meagan Curtis said Hartwick has a presence on the court and a way of making sure her fellow players are doing what they are supposed to doknowing each player and their style of play to set them up to hit the ball.
"You need to learn about each hitter to set them up right," Hartwick said, adding the setter is like the quarterback in football "because like a quarterback, if you can't get the pass to the other player, they can't do their job."
"She's been a natural fit as team captain," Curtis said. "She's determined to do well in everything she does ... She's very dependable. We're going to miss her presence on the court."
This year, with a team of all sophomores and juniors besides Hartwick, the Warriors have continued their reputation as a dominating squad.
This year, Del Norte recently wrapped up its 19th straight season of being either sole or co-champion of the Big 5 Conference, going 8-0 in the Big 5.
The Warriors are 20-8 overall and will find out on Sunday who and where they will play in the North Coast Section playoffs, which begin on Tuesday.
"It's been really fun this year," Hartwick said. "It's an amazing group of girls. They work hard and are willing to try new things ... It's really exciting to help carry on a tradition that's been started by some amazing players here."
To Curtis, Hartwick is someone that leads by example and strives to get better by taking private volleyball coaching during the offseason, and performing in a preseason weightlifting training program to get ready for the season. "She puts in the extra time," Curtis said.
Junior Jaclyn Hadfield said she and her fellow teammates look up to Hartwick, and said her knowledge of the game and leadership have been key in the squad's success this year.
"She works very hard," Hadfield said. "She knows how to have fun, but also when to be serious ... We're getting really good sets (from her). I think she makes the hitters' job easier."
When Hartwick began her volleyball career at Crescent Elk Middle School, she said she never thought she had the skills to play volleyball at the college level.
When she was a sophomore, longtime Warrior coach Debbie Lorenzi encouraged her and told her if she worked at it she could play in college.
Hartwick said that encouragement helped her strive to be the best volleyball player she could be.
Curtis said it was impressive to watch Hartwick work to be a great setter when she first arrived on the varsity squad.
"She decided that setter was where she wanted to play," Curtis said, "She put in a lot of extra work because she wanted to succeed."
Recently, Hartwick was offered a volleyball scholarship to Chico State, a Division two school.
While Hartwick has not made a final decision, she said she will likely accept their offer.
She said she loves the Chico area and the school has a good program in education, which she wants to pursue.
Her mother is a teacher at Crescent Elk, and her father, mother and a cousin went to Chico State.
Curtis also played volleyball at Chico State.
One thing Hartwick loves about volleyball is that it's a sport in which each player needs to work together as a team to be truly successful.
"You can't do it by yourself," Hartwick said "It's about the interaction you have with the other players."