Athlete of the Week: Rhoades helps set precedent for Del Norte High volleyball
By Michael Bower
Del Norte High senior Sierra Rhoades has certainly been on a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs throughout her high school athletic career.
She rode the highs of having a phenomenal sophomore volleyball season in which she was named to the All-Valley League Second Team. Then the lows of rehabbing a torn ACL suffered months later during basketball season.
It was back to the highs when she was cleared in time to play her junior year of volleyball. Then back to the lows when the Nighthawks fell one win short of the San Diego Section Division III finals last season.
Now Rhoades, an outside hitter, is not only hoping to end on the high note of reaching the section finals. She is hoping to help give the program a long-lasting identity. One that becomes a staple for years to come.
“How a program is run is set by the players,” Del Norte volleyball coach Nathan Rendon said. “It takes the responsibility of the players to say this is how our program is: no walking in the gym, giving 100-percent all the time. Things like that. She is trying to set that precedent. She is trying to leave her legacy that way.”
Two weeks ago, Rhoades, along with co-captains Lexi Reddick and Jordan Gerwig, called a meeting with all three levels of the volleyball program. Rhoades and other varsity players spoke about what they expect while they are there and after they graduate.
“We hadn’t gotten together as a program previous to that meeting,” Rhoades said. “The freshmen didn’t know what previous players had set and expected of them. Having that meeting let everyone know what us as varsity were trying to do and what we wanted for the program.”
When it comes to work ethic, Rhoades is an excellent example to follow. She was told it would be six months before she can get back on a volleyball court after tearing her ACL. She trained hard, three days a week and two hours a day. She was back in just under five months, playing with a knee brace.
“My one goal during that time was to get back to volleyball and back to my team because my team became a family and I didn’t want to leave them,” she said. “They are a part of my life now and I knew I had to work hard every day in order to get back to them.”
Playing with the brace limited what Rhoades was able to do on the court. But overcoming the mental aspect of the injury was tougher than anything else.
“The injury was always in the back of my mind because of the brace,” she said. “But I just got it off a few months before this year and now I am more mentally strong.”
In two matches last week, Rhoades combined for 10 kills, two aces and assisted on four blocks. Del Norte beat Orange Glen and Mission Vista to move to 16-3 overall and 2-0 in Valley League play.
For her efforts, Rhoades is the I-15 Voices Athlete of the Week.
“I can see a total difference this year,” Rendon said. “Last year, her mind wanted to do one thing and the knee and body wasn’t allowing her to do it. She had this powerful jump serve her sophomore year and she didn’t have that last year. She has brought that back this season.”
Rhoades was devastated when the Nighthawks were bounced in the semifinals of the playoffs last season. She and her teammates vowed to not let it happen again.
“Last year was kind of a wake-up call for us,” Rhoades said. “Instead of taking each other to the playoffs, we took ourselves to the playoffs. This season is about teamwork and working together and putting our team first.”
Sounds like a winning formula for many years to come.
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