The Del Norte volleyball team held its end of the year banquet on Wednesday where head coach Sarah Levi announced the Warriors, who finished second in the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 this season with a 5-3 league record, had the league’s Most Valuable Player this season.

Senior hitter Kaleya Sanchez was voted by the Big 5 coaches as the top player in the league in 2018 after smashing kills for Del Norte all season long.

“She is definitely very strong offensively — one of the best in the league,” Levi said. “She is an all around player and athlete, and she played defense very well, but it was probably her offense that really set her apart. In talking with some of the other coaches in the league they were talking about how she is such a powerhouse and just a memorable player.”

The Warriors also had two other players receive White Stars this season. Libero Renni Loftin and Bella Stone both stepped into important positions as sophomores in their first season on the varsity team and performed admirably.

As a setter, Stone is an intricate part of the Del Norte offense in charge of accurately distributing the ball to the Warrior hitters while also deciding who to set.

“She stepped it up this year, especially considering she is a sophomore setter in her first year of varsity,” Levi said. “She definitely put in a lot of work. Her sets were pretty consistent, and there where certain points where it was actually amazing some of the things that she did. I don’t know how the season would have gone if she wasn’t there.”

While Stone was taking charge of the offense, Loftin served as a leader of the defense as a constant in the Warriors back row.

“Renni definitely stepped it up this year and did her part in the back row,” Levi said. “A lot of the time back row players get overlooked, but if they don’t get the ball then it never gets set and hit. Our passes this season were really good, and Renni was a big contributor to that.”

In addition to three White Star awards, Del Norte also had four honorable mention selections this season — seniors Paula Mello, Ashley Wheelon, Katherine Martinez, and Skylar Throop.

The Warriors finished the season with a 14-9 overall record, including a trip to the North Coast Section playoffs as the No. 13 seed, in Levi’s first year as the head coach of the Del Norte varsity team.

“I definitely learned a lot. It was a great group of girls to start with for me,” Levi said. “We had our ups and downs, but we got through a lot of things and we got a lot better in a lot of aspects. Everyone worked hard all season long. The passion for the game was there. They were competitive, and they were willing to put in the work needed to get where they wanted to go.”

Del Norte will lose seven seniors to graduation before next season, and without any juniors on the team this year, Levi said she doesn’t expect any seniors next season. The Warriors will have a big junior class next year, however, with five current sophomores playing with the varsity in 2018.

“We will probably be a team of juniors and sophomores,” Levi said. “So it will be interesting without these seniors. Next year the juniors will be the players with the most experience. We will just see how it goes. It is going to be interesting.”

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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