Posted on 11 November 2013 by La Habra Journal
When sophomore Emily Sonny made it to Sonora High as a freshman last season, she had no volleyball experience.
A credit to natural athleticism and a quick learning curve, a year later Emily is now one of the main focal points of the Sonora girls’ varsity volleyball team.
It doesn’t hurt that she’s tall, which has been a rarity at Sonora in the sport.
“She’s made strides in leaps and bounds, I remember noticing her in our freshman camp because we don’t get a lot of height in our school,” said Andy Johnson, Sonora head coach. “She looked rough, but she’s just a natural athlete, so she can make plays without knowing the sport.”
The culmination of those strides to this point, came in the final three games of the season in which Emily made her presence felt with blocks on the front line, digs and passing from the back line and kills from all over.
In the team’s second game against La Habra in the Freeway League, Emily’s impact played a major role in her team’s sweep of the Lady Highlanders.
The following Tuesday, in the team’s final game of the regular season, Emily was dominant in the third set, tallying eight kills to complete another sweep, this time over Sunny Hills.
“I felt like this was our chance for CIF, I was playing, but I wasn’t feeling happy about it,” Emily said about the Sunny Hills match. “[Coach Johnson] told me to be happy, and I thought to myself that it was my time to shine and I wasn’t ready to transition to water polo yet.”
Emily has had plenty of those moments this season, a direct result of the hard work and dedication that she’s put into each practice.
While she and her coach have the same vision about her role on the team, they do disagree on one minor detail.
With Emily’s quick developmental pace, she believes that passing is the aspect of her game that she needs to improve upon.
“It has moved quickly and with passing, I haven’t learned technique yet, so my knees are beat up pretty bad,” she said. “It’s kind of hard because I was never taught the proper way to do things, like having the right arm swing, but I’m getting the hang of it. I’m going to play in club this year, so that should help.”
Johnson has a different view of that aspect.
“Watching her pass is really impressive, seeing her pass in practice allowed us to have her go all the way around on the court and since we made that change, a lot of our success is tied to that,” Johnson said. “But that’s what kind of a person she is, she sees what she feels is a weakness as something she needs to work on because she wants to be an all-around player.”
Emily first made it up to varsity during her freshman year when the team played playoff wild card game against Westridge, but because she injured her ankle the day of the match, she was unable to participate.
That small taste of a varsity game, plus the experience gained this year, have helped immensely when it comes to Emily’s development.
“I feel like I’ve done 10 times better than last year,” she said. “Being on varsity and being with better players and playing better players has been really tough, but it’s been a great experience, it’s made me improve a lot quicker.”
Before playing volleyball, Emily had garnered a year of experience playing water polo, but wanted to try another sport in the fall while waiting for water polo season to come around.
When she entered the freshman camp, she said the welcoming nature of the other girls was what stood out to her and made her feel more comfortable.
“Doing volleyball is a good experience because everyone is really nice,” she said. “That’s probably how I got so far to this point, because everyone is so nice and uplifting. My freshman year, everyone was so welcoming, it felt like home to me.”
During her sophomore year, Emily enjoys studying and participating in Spanish class, as well as History and Geometry at times.
When she has free time from school and athletics, she enjoys drawing, which is a hobby she picked up through an art class in junior high school.
“I loved my teacher,” she said. “My dad is a great artist too, so I think that might be where it comes from.”
But Emily’s passion is for animals and it’s one that she would like to continue by pursuing a degree in animal science.
However, her goal of raising a steer may need to be put on hold for now due to her hectic athletics schedule.
To this point, Emily’s biggest role models are her parents because of all the support they’ve provided to her interests in both volleyball and water polo.
Within the sport of volleyball, she also looks up to Misty May-Treanor.
While Emily’s experience in the sport may still be small in comparison to some of her teammates, her contributions and eagerness to step up regardless of that experience have been a valuable asset to the Sonora volleyball program.
With the opportunity to further grow and improve in club volleyball and a return to Sonora for two more years, there’s good reason behind Johnson’s excitement in the near future.
“There are a lot of players that are naturally gifted athletically and some of those have a cocky attitude, or they can be a sloppy practice player,” Johnson said. “Emily is just the opposite of that. She’s a student of the game, she asks questions. We have maybe six sophomores on varsity that will continue to grow and she’s right there in the middle of it. It’s going to be exciting to watch them mature.”