Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times The Oak Harbor High School volleyball team ranks second among 3A schools in the state for grade point average. Wildcat seniors Lauren May, left, and Julie Jansen are two of the three team members with perfect GPAs.

Making the grade: Volleyball team among state’s best

When high school student-athletes receive accolades, that praise is generally centered around what happens in the sports arena.

The Oak Harbor High School volleyball team, however, pushes “student” to the forefront.

The 10 varsity players this fall earned a combined 3.801 grade point average, second best among 3A schools in the state of Washington. Only Kelso, with a GPA of 3.84, was better.

Oak Harbor seniors Julie Jansen and Lauren May and junior Andrea Ruben own perfect 4.0s. The other seven — juniors Hailee Blau, Samantha Hines and Kristina Tirado; sophomores Cami Bristow, Ceirra Dean and Camden Miller; and freshman Leielle Salinger — all boast marks of 3.5 or better.

Academics first

Wildcat coach Kerri Molitor puts an emphasis on success in the classroom.

“I want to respect their academics,” she said. “We start practice later so they can go to tutoring.

“We encourage them to go to tutoring, and we encourage them to use our built-in tutors.”

The older students, she said, are available to help their teammates on road trips, often leading study sessions on the bus or in the bleachers.

The qualities of a good student, such as goal setting, can carry over to the volleyball court, Molitor said.

Though a high GPA doesn’t guarantee success in volleyball, it does help, she added.

“The advantage is I can speak to them at a higher level; it helps on the tactical side.”

Another advantage is knowing the players will always be academically eligible.

“I can plan ahead because I know who will be there,” she said. “There are no surprises on game day.”

In addition to being good students, the members of this year’s team are quality kids, Molitor said.

“I received more good comments this year from referees and other coaches about how respectful the players are. That’s good; they are more than volleyball players.”

Senior leaders

Molitor pointed to May and Jansen as the team leaders, both academically and athletically: “They have been really focused on leaving a positive footprint on our program.”

May said the qualities of a good student help the team both on and off the court.

“It helps us remember what to do during matches; mental toughness is a big part of the game. Also, I took some of the classes the younger players are taking, so I can help them and we can bond in that way.”

Jansen agreed the skills students use to achieve success in the classroom carry over to court: “During a game, it is easier to score if you can figure out what the other team is doing; it’s problem solving. When I study an opponent, it is ‘How can I win?’ It’s like ‘How can I write a good essay?’ The skills for figuring our how to win and how to get a good grade overlap.”

Making the time

Commitment to classwork and an athletic team can be difficult, so, to be successful in both, it boils down to dedication and time management, according to the May and Jansen.

The time volleyball requires actually helps May in the classroom, she said.

“I’m currently taking four AP classes. Playing volleyball helps keep me on my toes. If I have down time, I just won’t want to do the school work.”

School and sports don’t leave much time for a social life, but May and Jansen said that is not a concern because their circle of friends is their teammates.

“We all have the same problems, so it helps with team bonding, which helps the team overall,” Jansen said.

Record setter

May’s individual efforts in volleyball were nearly as perfect as her GPA.

She served as the Wildcats’ libero, or defensive specialist. This fall she set a new school single season digs record with 377, smashing the old mark of 307 set by Roshel Muzzall in 2012.

May, the daughter of Robert and Kimberli May, is highly respected by those around her. She was elected OHHS homecoming queen by the student body, and this summer she attended Girls State and was chosen by the others there to represent Washington at Girls Nation.

Three-sport star

Jansen is a rarity among high school athletes — she excels in three sports. She also plays basketball and track, and she should finish her high school career with an impressive 10 varsity letters.

Jansen, who is the youngest of Dwayne and Debbie Jansen’s eight children, draws inspiration from the success of her older siblings. Sister Jennie is her role model, a three-sport athlete and outstanding student.

Two other Jansen children graduated with a 4.0.

“When it comes to the family hierarchy, you want to be at the top,” Jansen said.

In the world of high school sports, the Wildcat volleyball team is there.

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