Spartan spikers Stuart, Tan eye big finish

Sabrina Tan is tied with Stuart for digs at 262 apiece and aces at 50 each. - JULIE BUSCH photo
Sabrina Tan is tied with Stuart for digs at 262 apiece and aces at 50 each.
— image credit: JULIE BUSCH photo

Bainbridge gears up for the volleyball playoffs behind their two team leaders.

They’re easygoing teenage girls who like to goof around and giggle at almost everything.

But when game time rolls around, outside hitters Sabrina Tan, a senior and Hannah Stuart, a junior, are all business.

They have helped the Bainbridge volleyball team to not only first place in the Metro League Mountain Division and a number one seed going into the Metro League volleyball tournament today at West Seattle High School, but a number two state ranking in the latest coaches’ volleyball poll.

The main reason for their success is their fighting spirit.

“We’re so competitive,” Stuart said. “We’re like, ‘we’re not gonna lose!’ When we lose a game, I get so mad.”

Tan agreed.

“Even in practice, I’m thinking, ‘oh, my team’s gonna win!’” she said. “I get so mad when people are messing up.”

They don’t show it on the court however, keeping their emotions in check as they encourage themselves and others to keep their head in the game.

“You want to be competitive, but not moody in the sense that you can do really bad sometimes,” Stuart said. “Last year, there would be lulls where we wouldn’t do too well, but I think this team is doing well by keeping it (our emotions) at a consistent rate.”

Tan admitted she struggles with keeping her head in it when her play turns south.

“But against the Blanchet team (on Oct. 3), (assistant coach) Dave Layton said I was doing a good job staying cool even when I messed up. And I realized that was because I was trying to stay happy the entire time.”

That ability to keep themselves and others from losing control is what makes them stand out, according to head coach Julie Miller.

“They’re both probably our steadiest kids on the court, both physically and mentally,” she said, noting the volleyball program won an academic achievement award for their 3.71 GPA. “They bring a lot of consistency and leadership. The kids look up to them because they’ve both played at a high level (in club).

“They are good at bringing other people up, and making sure that everyone is taken care of in that way,” she continued.

But Stuart and Tan don’t want to take all the credit for the team’s success.

“There’s not one star (on the team),” Tan said. “Everyone who’s the hitter is really good.”

Stuart credited Alexa Seidl, Kelcey Dunaway and Hillary Grant among others who have made big contributions to the team.

“I think there’s a lot of people who have stepped up, and we’re so proud of them,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who gets a kill, we all celebrate together. Everybody’s really strong and you can depend on everybody.”

Club volleyball is where the duo cut their teeth, as Tan started in sixth grade in Antioch, Calif., while Stuart started in the seventh grade at Woodward.

Tan fell into the sport after participating in several other athletic endeavors, while Stuart, busy with several other sports, didn’t turn out until she was introduced to it when a coach asked her to because she was tall.

When Tan’s parents wanted to find a better place to live, they picked Bainbridge Island, and she arrived at volleyball tryouts in 2003, as a sophomore.

Stuart, who has lived on the island in the same house her entire life, got to watch her showcase her talent.

“She showed up and everyone was like, ‘wow, the new girl is really good,’” she said.

Tan said she had heard rumors from other students that the volleyball team wasn’t that great, but those were put to rest the moment she saw them play.

It’s been a slow climb to greatness ever since. The two helped the team place in the top 10 at state in 2003, then a third place finish last year.

While Tan has played club on and off, Stuart has embraced the sport, even taking part in the USA Youth National camp this summer in Colorado Springs, Colo. and will travel to Austin, Texas to participate in a USA volleyball camp holiday camp with the Junior National and Youth National teams as one out of 100 girls in the nation that are invited.

When Tan graduates, she may attend Washington State University and take part in their veterinary program. But this year, the pre-game warmup partners are confident they’ll come home with the big one.

“We really want to win this as a team,” Tan said. “The only way we can is as a team.”

Said Stuart, “We had a little slump in the middle of the season, but now we’re coming out strong. I definitely think we’re going to finish strong.”

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