From the beginning of her high school career, Cat Highmark exhibited exceptional talent. And she exhibited an exceptional attitude for a player with exceptional talent.
“A lot of times the talented kid doesn’t want to work as hard,’’ said former Scottsdale Chaparral coach Jayme Crowley, who resigned last week.
“That was never the case with Cat. She was always the hardest worker in the gym.”
Highmark is the Tribune’s volleyball player of the year. A four-year starter at Chaparral, she led the Firebirds to three state championships, including this year’s 4A-I title.
The 5-foot-10 Highmark did everything well at the high school level.
She had 568 kills and 456 assists this season. She added 259 digs, 85 aces and 57 blocks.
“She did whatever it took to win,’’ Crowley said. “She always put her teammates first.”
Highmark said that since she started playing volleyball in sixth grade with the Arizona Juniors club, she’s always worked hard to improve her game.
“There’s always something you can do better,’’ she said.
Maybe that drive came from her mother.
Cat’s mom, Alison, was a high school All-American in Connecticut.
During the early days of Title IX in the early 1970s, she received a scholarship for both basketball and volleyball to the University of Miami.
She played four years of volleyball at Miami, where she boasted a 30-plus-inch vertical leap.
Highmark appears headed to even loftier ends.
She graduated from Chaparral a semester early and has moved to Huntington Beach, Calif.
She signed a letter of intent with Long Beach State, a powerhouse in college volleyball.
The 49ers have been to the NCAA tournament 21 of the last 23 seasons. She committed to Long Beach State after her sophomore season.
“They saw something special in her early on,’’ Crowley said.
Highmark is a star off the court as well.
She had a 3.97 weighted GPA and volunteered in community-service initiatives, including the Foundation for the Blind, St. Mary’s Food Bank, the Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity.
“I’ve never met a better player or person in 21 years of coaching than Cat,’’ Crowley said.
Looking Back: Memorable moments in from the 2007 season
Xavier’s savior: Phoenix Xavier senior Kelsey Bohman’s high school career ended like a dream — she hit the winning point for the Gators in the 5A-I state final. But that last match started out as a bit of nightmare. Her play was poor enough early that coach Tim McHale benched her for part of the match. When she got back in, Bohman came on strong and finished with 10 kills.
Never give up: With his team down two games to none and trailing 16-10 in the third against Tempe Corona del Sol in the 5A-I state quarterfinals, Gilbert coach Joe Hesse was thinking about emptying his bench. But his players weren’t thinking that way. “There was never doubt,’’ sophomore Alyssa Dwyer said. The Tigers roared back to win in five games.
Rolling Thunder: Phoenix Desert Vista won two of the big invitational tournaments during the regular season — the Westwood Tournament of Champions and the Goldwater Volleyball Tournament. Both times, Chloe Steadman came through to win the match point for the Thunder. “I love playing clutch,” Steadman said. “I think that’s when I do my best, when my adrenaline’s pumping.
Firebird on fire: Cave Creek Cactus Shadows held a 13-10 lead in the second game of the 4A-I state title match. Scottsdale Chaparral senior outside hitter Cat Highmark took over. Highmark had six kills, three blocks and two assists in a 12-2 run, and the Firebirds went on to sweep the match.
Plot twist: It looked like it was over for Chandler Seton Catholic when senior outside hitter Ellen Harty went down with an ankle injury in the third game of the 4A-II state final. The Sentinels were already trailing Scottsdale Notre Dame 0-2, and Harty had been their most effective player of the match. Seton managed to win the third game. “I think they wanted to do it for Ellen. I think it was a motivating factor,” coach James Felton said. “I think they played really well and had a lot of heart.” Hart returned for the fourth game, and Seton took a 5-1 lead. In the end Notre Dame proved too strong and won 25-20.
Class 5A All-Tribune first team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Abby Simmons Desert Vista Sr. S Great setter, led team to quarterfinals Lexi Sullivan Mountain View Sr. OH Athletic, as hard a hitter as you’ll find Paije Pearson Chandler Sr. OH Power hitter headed to San Diego St. Sam Hodgkins Mtn. Pointe Sr. OH Led the Pride to the state final Sara Bowden Corona del Sol Sr. OH Provided leadership for a young team Sarah Clause Gilbert Jr. OH Averaged four kills per game
5A Player of the Year: Abby Simmons, Desert Vista
Coach of the Year: Tim McHale, Xavier (coached Gators to 5A-I state championship)
Class 5A All-Tribune second team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Stephanie Preach Xavier So. S Whopping 10.5 apg for state champs Kelsey Bohman Xavier Sr. MB Hit winning point in state final Leah Flatness Horizon Sr. OH Player of the year for Pima Region Ami Baldwin Gilbert Sr. OH Strong server, solid all-around player Ashley Kastl Mtn. Pointe Jr. OH 22 kills in state final match Lauren Howard Desert Vista Sr. OH A force up front for the Thunder
Class 5A honorable mention:
CHANDLER: Taite Wall, OH, Sr.; Katie Milan, S, Sr. CORONA DEL SOL: Bethany Jorgensen, OH, So.; Taylor Kesteloot, S, Jr; Cassie Rhonda, OH, So; Lexie Schroeder, L, Jr. DESERT MOUNTAIN: Taylor Jones, S, Jr. DESERT VISTA: Betsi Metter, OH, So.; Anna Gott, S/L, Jr.; Chloe Steadman, Opp., Jr. GILBERT: Ashley Denham, S, Jr. HAMILTON: Katie Peterson, L, Jr. HORIZON: Michele Anderson, L, Sr.; Kaitlin Halverstadt, OH, Jr. MESA: Annie Clifford, OH, Sr. MOUNTAIN POINTE: Emily Lentz, S, Sr. MOUNTAIN VIEW: Erin Flake, MB, Sr.; Madi Fitzgerald, MB, Jr. PINNACLE: Kayley Mundell, OH, Sr. RED MOUNTAIN: Shea Hansen, S, Sr. ST. MARY’S: Dana Yoshimura, OH, Sr. WESTWOOD: Lacey Palmer, OH, Jr. XAVIER: Logan Johnson, RS, Sr.; Alexis Pinson, MB, Jr.; Lacey Preach, DS, Jr.; Caitlin Sandahl, OH, Sr.
Class 4A-2A All-Tribune first team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Cat Highmark Chaparral Sr. OH Superb all-around talent for champs Sarah Svorinic Notre Dame Sr. S Topped 1,000-assist mark for champs Melissa Toth Arcadia Jr. OH Third in nation in kills per game Molly Barlow Seton Catholic Jr. OH Helped Seton make jump to 4A Alaina Bergsma Valley ChristianSr. OH 2A star showed she can play at any level Sammy Geiger Cactus ShadowsSr. S Setter who had more than 100 kills
Player of the Year: Cat Highmark, Chaparral
Coach of the Year: Laura Harris, Notre Dame (led team to 42-3 record, losing just one game to an Arizona school)
Class 4A-2A All-Tribune second team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Chelsey Thompson Notre Dame Sr. OH Anchored talented senior front line Cassie Uribe Notre Dame Jr. OH Averaged 3.0 kills per game Rebecca Slegers Notre Dame Sr. MB Had 108 blocks for state champs Kim Chick Saguaro Sr. OH Averaged 3 kills, 3.7 digs per game Hayley Sanders Higley Sr. S Strong setter who can do it all Chanel Brown Valley ChristianSo. OH/S 621 kills, 126 aces
Class 4A-2A honorable mention:
ARCADIA: MacKenzie Martin, S, Jr.; Teal Pine, OH, Jr. CACTUS SHADOWS: Shannon Mikan, MB, Sr. CHAPARRAL: CeCe Twitty, MB, Jr.; Abbey Withey, OH, Sr. CORONADO: Megan Dippre, S, Sr. HIGLEY: Karis Peelen, MB, Sr. QUEEN CREEK: Hayley McClure, OH, Sr. MCCLINTOCK: MaryJo Kolze, S, So. NOTRE DAME: Laini Downing, DS, Sr. SAGUARO: Nicole Eiler, L, Jr. SETON CATHOLIC: Ellen Harty, Opp, Sr. TEMPE: Audrey Sundberg, S, Sr. VALLEY CHRISTIAN: Kelsey Moore, MB, Sr.
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