When the Oak Harbor High School volleyball team adopted senior transfer Leah Quidachay into its program, little did the Wildcats know they would be embracing more than a talented setter.
With Quidachay guiding the offense and providing quality defense, the Wildcats begin district tournament play 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, when Meadowdale visits Oak Harbor.
Oak Harbor entered the season as an afterthought when it came to predicting the powers of the Western Conference. Snohomish and Stanwood were the favorites, but Oak Harbor proved to be a worthy foe and pushed the top teams throughout the season.
The young Oak Harbor team — with only three returning seniors — was an unknown, as was its newcomer, Quidachay.
Quidachay spent most of her life in San Antonio.
It is not uncommon for Oak Harbor, a military community, to receive transfers, but few move just before their final year of high school. Most stick around to graduate surrounded by longtime friends and, in Quidachay’s case, teammates.
Quidachay, however, was not resistant to the move. If fact, she was for it.
Her father, Vince Quidachay, was checking NJROTC instructor openings on his computer when Oak Harbor popped up.
“Leah came over and looked at my laptop and said, ‘Wow, that looks nice,’” Vince Quidachay said.
Vince grew up in Vancouver, Wash., and the family, with Leah in tow, returned to the state several times to visit relatives. Leah said she always enjoyed the Pacific Northwest.
Peering at her father’s laptop, Leah, who owns a 3.8 GPA, said, “I wouldn’t mind going to the University of Washington.”
“So, that is all it took,” Vince Quidachay said. “My wife is from Montana, so it was very easy to convince ourselves to come up here. It has been awesome ever since.”
Once Vince Quidachay accepted the job as an NJROTC instructor at Oak Harbor High School, he contacted Oak Harbor volleyball coach Kerri Molitor about his daughter’s interest in playing for the Wildcats.
Molitor told captain Cami Bristow, and Bristow texted Leah the next day, welcoming her to the team.
Little did the girls know that their fathers served together in the Navy at one time. That was one of many connections with Oak Harbor, Vince Quidachay said, they discovered since considering the move.
While Leah was all for the change, she found it “nerve wracking.”
“It was sad I had to tell everyone goodbye,” she said. “And, it was scary moving to a new school with new kids.
“Getting the text from Cami made it a lot easier.”
The Quidachays moved to Oak Harbor July 1 to make sure Leah would be able to attend summer team camp with the Wildcats at Western Washington University.
Three days after arriving, she was out on the court with her new teammates.
“I had never seen them; they had never seen me,” she said. “They made it really easy to fit in; they were super nice.
“Now I am really close to the whole team, closer than I thought I would be.”
Vince Quidachay said that Texas is noted for its hospitality, but Washingtonians go one step further: “They are nice to each other.”
At team camp, Molitor thrust Leah into the lineup to see what she could do. It didn’t take long for the newcomer to establish herself as the starting setter.
“She came in with an open attitude,” Molitor said. “It is tough, because she didn’t know what she was getting into.”
Quidachay is one of Oak Harbor’s strongest, all-around players.
“She could play any position,” Molitor said.
Quidachay is also a master of turning errant passes into usable sets.
“She saves balls most setters can’t,” Molitor said. “I haven’t had a setter that bails us out as much as she does.”
Molitor praised the Quidachay family for its support of Leah and the program.
“They made every effort to get Leah here in time for camp; they made a lot of sacrifices to move her,” she said.
“Leah did all the right things to develop connections with the other players,” she added.
Father Vince has connected with the program as well.
In the past, Wildcat matches were often staid. Now with Vince Quidachay in attendance, they are spirited affairs. His NJROTC cadets occupy the first few rows of a full, raucous student section, and Vince Quidachay whips up the crowd with his enthusiasm.
“I was a cheerleader in high school,” he said, stating the obvious.
That robust support has given the Wildcats a distinct home court advantage, Molitor said.
“The kids feed off him,” Leah Quidachay said about her father. “I’m a little embarrassed, but he makes the matches fun.”
Support for Leah and her teammates runs deep in the Quidachay family. Both her older sisters, Chelsea and Kendi, teachers in San Antonio, have flown out to watch Leah and Oak Harbor play this season.
The Wildcats now hope there will be plenty more season to watch by making a deep run into the playoffs.
Leah Quidachay said good things will happen if “we continue to play with the intensity we had against the good teams.”
Regardless, San Antonio’s loss is Oak Harbor’s gain.
“We didn’t get just a good setter,” Molitor said, “but a good person as well.”