As a Templeton High volleyball player, senior Autumn Russell has created a new standard.
Jodi Kelly, the five-year coach of the Eagles who also played volleyball at Templeton, said Russell is the highest jumper she’s ever had.
Russell, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, was the only player on her squad to hit a jump serve. Her wicked, topspin shot helped her to a team-high 56 aces.
And she was the star on a Los Padres League team that beat all four of its PAC 7 opponents this year — including first-place
Arroyo Grande and second-place Atascadero.
Russell, who led the LPL with 237 kills, is this year’s Tribune County Player of the Year.
The five-set road win against Arroyo Grande in a Sept. 17 nonleague match in which Russell had a season-high 24 kills, came against an Eagles team that went undefeated in PAC 7 play.
“I don’t know if Templeton has ever beaten Arroyo Grande in girls volleyball,” Kelly said. “That was so exciting and I’m so proud.”
Kelly said she’s seen Russell mature and blossom as a player and a teammate.
She watched her grow taller each year, and while playing club volleyball after the high school season with the 805 Elite, Russell’s game improved dramatically and set her apart in the county this season.
Russell said club volleyball gave her the repetition of hitting balls and playing at a rapid pace against skilled players, and that helped her take her game to the next level.
“She has grown every year,” Kelly said. “She has become a leader on the team. At the same time, she likes to keep it light. She likes to joke around. She’s a good teammate.”
Russell, along with teammates Mari Stewart and Marissa Torres, also is a standout on the basketball court. The trio has formed a formidable senior unit in both sports.
Torres logged more than 350 digs in volleyball, while Stewart complemented Russell well with just under 200 kills.
Stewart balanced the hitting attack with her right-handed slams, while Russell boomed shots from the left side — mostly hitting over opponents at the net — and she’s also adept hitting with her right as well.
In addition to her hitting, Russell logged more than 100 digs and was a blocking force at the net.
Russell believes volleyball and basketball go hand in hand — working similar muscles and skill sets. Still, she has a preference.
“I like volleyball better,” Russell said. “They’re both fun, and I like basketball, but I’d like to play volleyball in college.”
Russell hopes to display her ability to college scouts in a Las Vegas showcase tournament in club volleyball in early 2014.
Already, she’s practicing with her club team — comprised of a group of local all-stars — around her high school basketball schedule.
“It’s busy (playing two sports at once), but I like playing,” Russell said. “It’s fun for me.”
Watching Russell in practices and warm-ups, she often has a big, ready smile, joking and laughing with teammates.
Stewart said Russell’s best attribute as a teammate, in addition to her superb jumping and hitting ability, is her sense of humor.
“We’ve played on the same teams for four years together,” Stewart said. “We played on J.V. as a freshman and we both moved up to varsity as sophomores. She has fun when she plays. She keeps it loose.”
But then in game situations, Russell’s competitiveness kicks in. She jumps so high she can adjust in the air to handle sets slightly off their mark or to avoid a blocker.
Tense moments don’t faze her much and she tunes out the crowd.
“The only time I remember hearing the crowd was in a game when a bunch of our fans started jangling their keys,”
Russell said with a grin. “I have no idea why they started doing that. They never do it. That’s the only time I noticed the crowd on my serve.”
During her high school seasons this year and last, Russell helped her team achieve league and postseason success.
Last year as a junior, Russell helped Templeton win the LPL title in volleyball and advance to the third round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3A playoffs.
This year, the Eagles finished in a tie for second with Nipomo behind undefeated Santa Ynez.
And the Eagles made it to the third round of the playoffs again, including two home wins.
“It has been a lot of fun playing (for Templeton),” Russell said. “We had a lot of chemistry.”
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Autumn Russell, Templeton, Sr.
Mari Stewart, Templeton, Sr.
Ashlyn Herlihy, Arroyo Grande, Soph.
Alaina Hogeboom, Arroyo Grande, Jr.
Holland Boege, San Luis Obispo, Soph.
Megan McGuigan, Arroyo Grande, Sr.
Taylor Nevitt, Nipomo, Sr.
Kendall Featherstone, Atascadero, Sr.
Molly Maguire, San Luis Obispo, Sr.
Sami Baker, Nipomo, Sr.; Noelle Laird, Mission Prep, Soph.; Marissa Torres, Templeton, Sr.; Sabrina Degnan, Atascadero, Jr.; Kacee Fox, Arroyo Grande, Jr.; Sybella Paredes, Morro Bay, Jr.; Maren Cracknell, Atascadero, Jr.; Morgan Lawson, Paso Robles, Jr.
Josi Kelly, Templeton, Soph; Sierra Emrick, Morro Bay, Jr.; Sage Radecki, Coast Union, Jr.; Brooke Harbottle, Atascadero, Soph.; Chloe Kerns, Sr.; Rachel Hindmarsh, Mission Prep, Sr.; Aliyah Morrison, North County Christian, Jr.; Megan Penaflor, Nipomo, Sr.; Roni Garrison, Coastal Christian, Jr.