Athlete Spotlight: Stephanie Stevenson, a catalyst for fun on the court
On a team that is about as fun-loving as it can get in high school sports, Whittier Christian’s Stephanie Stevenson still finds a way to stand out.
Very rarely is the senior middle blocker seen on campus or on the court without a smile on her face, a trait that helps the team perhaps as much as her ability to hit for a high percentage from her position.
“I’m always smiling even when I’m not playing volleyball,” Stephanie said. “I play because it’s fun, so if we’re not having fun, why play?”
In three games spanning from the CIF Championship victory over Mayfield, to the Lady Heralds’ loss in the second round of the CIF State playoffs, Stephanie played a major role with 30 combined kills, an average of 10 per game.
The feat is more impressive when considering Stephanie is listed at 5-foot-9 on the roster, which is considerably shorter than some of the middle blockers she’s faced during that stretch.
“Her consistency has always been at the forefront,” said Shawn Hunter, Whittier Christian head coach. “She’s always been a person that’s thinking about what she’s doing, where to place the ball. She hits corners very well and keeps a high percentage. That consistency shined through for us in the playoffs.”
However, while Stephanie admits she may have been a little intimidated by the size of her opponents at first, once she settled she found success due to her ability to hit around the block.
“In the beginning, when we high five and I see how tall they are, that freaks me out,” she said. “But then we start playing and I realize it doesn’t matter how tall they are, I can still compete with them.”
However, despite the occasional mismatches, Stephanie said she’s been playing middle throughout her career and has had so much fun at the position that she did not want to switch.
While teams focused their game plans around Whittier Christian’s outside hitters, Stephanie provided another weapon for the Lady Heralds early on in each match.
Once the teams then realized she was a threat, it opened things up for her teammates to have success on the outside.
“To be honest, I didn’t know my hitting stats until after the match when someone told me, but that was exciting to hear,” Stephanie said of the CIF Championship game. “I’m just trying to do my best to help us win, it’s been like that the whole season, I just want to win. I didn’t really get the nervous butterflies before the finals, it just felt like another big game.”
Though the Lady Heralds had been to the CIF State playoffs numerous times during Stephanie’s four years in the program, a win in the bracket had eluded the team until this season.
After the win, Stephanie had perhaps a very unique initial thought.
“I was thinking, great we have practice,” she said. “I was excited to win the first round of state because I’ve been there all four years and we had never won a state game, once we got that win, I thought we could go all the way.”
Though the team’s season ended in the second round, Stephanie, along with the rest of her team, went out fighting.
During the season, Stephanie said a key point for the Lady Heralds occurred during a tournament after the team lost a match it thought it should have won.
After that match, the team was introduced to Rosh, a stuffed bear the team won from a vending machine, which became a good luck charm for the remainder of the year.
“After that, we won and he’s been with us ever since,” Stephanie said. “We even made him some clothes.”
When Stephanie is not on the court or in the classroom, she tries to make it to the beach at least once a week during the summer. She also loves surfing, a hobby she took up at five-years-old.
She also enjoys watching movies, as long as they don’t portray the sport of volleyball.
“They always make it seem like it’s so easy,” she said.
While in school, Stephanie said that Statistics has been fun because her friends have been in class with her and she also enjoys English.
But when it comes to role models, Stephanie’s first response was Miley Cyrus.
“She makes me want to be a better person,” she said.
And while Stephanie’s physical abilities from the middle blocker position make her a threat on the volleyball court, her personality on and off the court points in the complete opposite direction.
“She is by far one of our catalysts for fun and enjoyment. She gives us opportunities to lighten practice,” Hunter said. “She always has a smile on her face and works hard at the same time, but is always light-hearted when it comes to the team and it allows us to loosen up a bit. She has a great perspective on the team concept. She’s always helpful, but a great team perspective.”
When asked if she had any final thoughts on her senior season, Stephanie had a very simple answer.
“I’d like to say thank you to my teammates and my coach and Rosh.”